Court hikes jail terms in infamous Rohingya graveyard case

Court hikes jail terms in infamous Rohingya graveyard case

Former army adviser and lieutenant-general Manas Kongpan arrives at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Thursday to hear the Appeal Court's ruling in the Rohingya human trafficking case. His jail terms were extended from 27 to 82 years. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Former army adviser and lieutenant-general Manas Kongpan arrives at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Thursday to hear the Appeal Court's ruling in the Rohingya human trafficking case. His jail terms were extended from 27 to 82 years. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)

The Appeal Court has significantly increased the prison terms for many defendants in the huge Rohingya trafficking case that followed the discovery of the graves of many illegal migrants in the far South four years ago.

Sentences were increased to around 80 years for defendants including an army lieutenant general and several local southern politicians. 

The Appeal Court's ruling was read at the Criminal Court on Thursday. The case involved 103 defendants, one of them disgraced former army adviser and lieutenant-general Manas Kongpan.

Their arrests and trial began in 2015 after the discovery of some 30 graves on a mountain in tambon Padang Besar in Sadao district, Songkhla, near the Malaysian border.

The bodies were found close to a makeshift camp and were believed to be Rohingya migrants, victims of  human trafficking. 

The Appeal Court raised jail terms by additionally finding defendants guilty of smuggling illegal migrants into the country, trafficking in persons and being part of a transnational criminal organisation.

Under the Appeal Court's ruling, the prison terms of Manas and former police sub-lieutenant Narathon Samphan, a former deputy inspector in Ranong province, were increased from a total of 27 years to 82 years.

The sentences of Banchong Pongphon, former mayor of Songkhla province's Padang Besar, Asan Inthathanu, former councillor of Padang Besar, and Prasit Lemlay, former deputy mayor of Padang Besar, were increased from 78 to 79 years.

Other defendants sentenced to jail by the ruling of the Criminal Court on July 19, 2017, had their jail terms raised from 15-23 years to 38-82 years.

The Appeal Court did not change the stiffest 94-year term, given to Myanmar national Soe Naing, who had been found guilty of human trafficking and assault causing death.

The court also convicted some of the defendants who were earlier acquitted. They included former army captain Wisut Bunnag of the Internal Security Operations Command in Chumphon province, and former Satun provincial councillor Anas Hayeemasae.

They were sentenced by the Appeal Court to 82 years in jail for human trafficking, transnational crime and offences related to alien migrants.

Actual jail terms are by law limited to 50 years.

The Appeal Court's ruling reduced the number of acquitted defendants from 40 to only 26.


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