Prayut orders smuggler blitz

Prayut orders smuggler blitz

Special panel to probe state officials

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered police to form a special committee to investigate state officials involved in the smuggling of illegal migrants, which has been blamed for the latest Covid-19 outbreak.

Officials who facilitate illegal migration will be prosecuted with no exceptions, Defence Ministry spokesman Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich quoted the prime minister as saying.

The instructions were given at a meeting of the Defence Council chaired by Gen Prayut who is also defence minister, the spokesman said.

Gen Prayut has also instructed all military units to step up surveillance and patrols along the border to prevent illegal entry by land and sea to curb the spread of the coronavirus from neighbouring countries. The prime minister had meanwhile ordered the arrest of traffickers of illegal migrants.

Police and administrative officials were instructed to establish checkpoints on routes believed to be used by traffickers of illegal labourers.

Gen Prayut ordered a 1,000-bed field hospital be set up to treat Covid-19 patients in Samut Sakhon, the centre of the latest outbreak of the disease, Lt Gen Kongcheep said.

The outbreak in Samut Sakhon centres on migrant worker communities.

Lt Gen Kongcheep said the army and the navy would supply and equip the field hospital with 1,000 beds in Samut Sakhon. It had still to be decided if it would be set up at a factory, in a residential zone or a military camp.

The field hospital must be in a place where there are the most patients, so that infected people would not have to be transported to areas outside, he said.

National police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk said yesterday police now have some clues about human traffickers.

Police were targeting traffickers while illegal migrants would be spared, he said.

The government would treat infected migrants for the good of their health and for the better well-being of all Thai people, he said.

It was time for migrant workers to believe in government officials, Pol Gen Suwat said, adding that the prime minister has assigned Deputy Defence Minister Chaichan Changmongkol to deal with the human trafficking issue.

Asked if there were any state officials involved in the smuggling of migrant workers, Pol Gen Suwat said that investigators were gathering evidence. Anyone found guilty will be prosecuted regardless of who they are, he said.

Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin also said that any officials from the ministry who were involved in the smuggling will face legal action.

Mr Suchart said that before the prime minister addressed the nation on the Covid-19 situation in a televised broadcast on Tuesday, he consulted the Labour Ministry on measures to be taken to deal with illegal traffickers.

Damrong Pudtan, a well-known television host and former senator, revealed on Facebook that his friend who is a businessman in the fishing industry told him that some employers had paid labour smuggling gangs to bring migrants for 10,000 baht each directly into Samut Sakhon via natural border passages.

Sources said gangs smuggled migrants for 10,000-30,000 baht each directly to Samut Sakhon.

Speaking at Government House yesterday, Gen Prayut said the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) will today decide whether and how New Year celebrations will be conducted.

The meeting will also come up with a map using colours such as green, orange and red to illustrate Covid-19 risk levels in provinces affected by the disease, the prime minister said.

He expressed concern about unregistered migrant workers, and warned that tough action will be taken against illegal labour smuggling gangs.

"Some employers are selfish. They hired illegal migrant workers and did not pay them wages stipulated by law. I am tackling the problem and targeting these gangs," the prime minister said.

Gen Prayut said that another concern is that some factories that employ illegal migrants decided to sack the workers or abandon them to avoid legal penalties.



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