6 trafficking convicts lose court appeal
The convictions of a former president of Trang's Fisheries Association and five others for conspiring to commit human trafficking crimes against 15 victims were upheld by the Appeal Court in the province Tuesday, though their jail terms were cut to 10 years.
The court on March 17 last year sentenced Somphon Jirojmontri, aka Ko Nang, and five other defendants, including one Myanmar national, to 14 years in jail and ordered them to pay their victims almost 2 million baht in compensation.
Of a total of 11 defendants, four were acquitted while Paiwong Chaipolrit received an additional year in jail for illegally carrying a weapon. Boonlarp Fishery Limited Partnership was hit with a fine of 500,000 baht.
On Oct 21, 2015, staff of the Anti-Human Trafficking in Labour Project, Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and local police and civil society organisations rescued 15 fishery workers from Myanmar who had pleaded with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for help.
Initially, it was reported they had been held captive, subjected to physical violence and not paid their full wages.
After an investigation and corroboration of the evidence by officials, local police, the DSI and the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) were able to arrest Somphon, a partner at Boonlarp Fishery, and the others on Nov 7, 2015 for violating the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.
The court ruling came ahead of today's deadline for Thailand to submit its report to the US State Department on what it has done to tackle human trafficking problems over the past year.
The US will compile its annual Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Report with reference to the information submitted.
Royal Thai Police adviser and head of the group Thailand Internet Crimes Against Children, Tamasak Wicharaya, said the report, both in Thai and English, has already been sent to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Thailand is likely to be submitted to the US on time.
Pol Gen Tamasak declined to speculate on how Thailand's ranking might be affected.
In June last year the kingdom's status was maintained at Tier 2 Watchlist, but said he believed there has been a lot of improvement since then.
"We have worked closely with our allies in tackling human trafficking, especially the US and Australia as well as anti-human trafficking authorities in Myanmar. NGOs were also invited to observe or join in the operations," he said.
"We are now working on improving the standard of our work such as with a victim identification system," Pol Gen Tamasak said.
The kingdom will have to submit another three-month update after March.
In 2014, Thailand's ranking dropped from Tier 2 Watchlist to Tier 3, the lowest ranking, before being upgraded two years later to Tier 2 Watchlist.
National Human Rights commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit said she did not take part in producing the report, but according to her observations, she had seen good progress in the government's attempts to tackle human trafficking.
However, authorities could try and treat and assist victims and witnesses better, she said.