35 tourists released by Karen BGF

35 tourists released by Karen BGF

Armed Karen border guards released 35 Thai tourists who were detained at a Myanmar market yesterday following negotiations.

The Border Guard Force (BGF), a Karen security force formerly known as the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, arrested the tourists at a fresh market opposite the Three Pagodas Pass yesterday morning in Payathonzu village next to Kanchanaburi's Sangkhla Buri district.

The detainment was a stated response to a sting operation conducted by Thailand's Anti-Human Trafficking Division police to arrest underage sex workers in Payathonzu on Wednesday, say officials.

The negotiations held between the police, military officers and local officials took around 30 minutes before the people were released.

The tourists were permitted to return home safely to Thailand after the BGF agreed to their release, according to 9th Infantry Regiment Chief Col Banyong Thongnuam.

He noted that the BGF's aim was only to detain -- not arrest -- the tourists to make the Thai police reassess their arrest of the sex workers earlier that week.

The sting operation involved Thai officers who posed as customers in Payathonzu, leading to the arrest of six sex workers in the village.

The officers later released two women as they were over 20 years old.

The rest were found to be underage, between 16 and 17 years old.

The four girls and two Myanmar nationals who brought them to the officers were taken to Bangkok to be investigated, say sources.

Officers imposed a temporary ban on travel to Payathonzu, fearing further retaliation from the BGF.

However, tourists are now allowed to travel through the Three Pagodas Pass as usual. It has been the main land route into western Thailand since ancient times.

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