Panel expands hunt to 'big fish' in trafficking rackets
The Justice Ministry has instructed authorities to hunt for "big fish" -- high-ranking state officials -- embroiled in 15 human trafficking cases after suspects arrested earlier were found to be only "minnows".
Speaking after meeting a panel overseeing human trafficking cases involving state authorities, justice permanent secretary Wisit Wisitsora-at said officials were ordered to step up their efforts to track down high-ranking civil servants and influential businessmen.
Investigations into cases with ties to state authorities had made substantial progress. However, those who faced prosecution were only low-ranking officials and henchmen while high-ranking state authorities and key suspects managed to escape justice.
Probes are under way into cases including the Rohingya smuggling scandal in the South, the country's largest human trafficking case; two sex-trafficking scandals in Ban Nam Phieng Din in Mae Hong Son and Loei's Phu Rua district.
Mr Wisit said the panel was set up by the ministry to expedite probes and pursue disciplinary and legal action against state authorities suspected of involvement in human trafficking.
It has also worked with anti-human trafficking agencies to examine the money trail of government officials believed to be linked to the racket. The panel will also review cases to ascertain whether appropriate penalties were brought against guilty state officials.
Mr Wisit said those who were found guilty of human trafficking must be sacked from their civil service posts while legal and disciplinary action will be brought against those who meddled with investigations to favour authorities behind human trafficking rings.
"The panel also agreed that civil servants who are found guilty of buying sex from underage prostitutes will also face a human trafficking charge," he said.
Meanwhile, Department of Special Investigation chief Paisit Wongmuang said the agency will zero in on the money trail and phone use records of state officials suspected of being embroiled in human trafficking in a bid to expose high-ranking officials behind the racket.
The investigation was conducted in compliance with the ministry's anti-human trafficking scheme.
Pol Col Paisit, however, admitted most suspects arrested by the department were only low-ranking officers.
The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division had expedited investigations to find which state officials had taken bribes.