'Slave' probe to wrap up in 2 months
Police expect to wrap up their investigation into the suspected human trafficking of 13 Lao immigrants, who were reportedly treated as "slaves", within two months.
Officers rescued the immigrants from what was described as "animal cages" at a pig and chicken farm in Nakhon Pathom on Saturday. They will continue their questioning of nine young victims, aged between 15 and 18 years old, to gather evidence for legal action against farm owner and Krung Thai Bank manager Chaidet Sonut, Sam Kwai Phueak police interrogator Pol Lt Col Thani Phukphanit said Monday.
- EDITORIAL: Quick, full investigtion needed
Apart from holding short interviews with some victims, including a 25-year-old man who escaped from the farm in Muang district and raised the alarm, the media was not allowed to talk to the rest of the group for "legal reasons", according to Pol Lt Col Thani.
The 12 male victims are staying at the witness protection centre against human traffickers in Pathum Thani, and the female victim is at the Kredtrakarn Protection and Occupational Development Centre in Nonthaburi. The officers expect to complete their interviews this week.
According to an initial probe, the 13 Lao nationals illegally gained jobs at the farm after contacting a job broker. But during their two months working as farmhands, they were allegedly treated like slaves and beaten. They said they were forced to work for 18 hours a day without pay, sleep in a building with metal barriers, go without toilets or showers, and not allowed to leave the farm, said Social Development and Human Security Minister Adul Sangsingkeo.
Labour officials are working to give 11 of the victims their overdue monthly wages of 7,800 baht each and another two 5,900 baht each, Mr Adul said.
Mr Chaidet, who was released on bail, has denied all charges of detaining, assaulting and giving shelter to immigrant workers. His employer said Monday it had transferred him to work on menial tasks away from financial affairs and customer contact during the police investigation.