Ex-PAO member jailed for trafficking

Ex-PAO member jailed for trafficking

A former member of the Satun Provincial Administration Organisation (PAO) has been sentenced to 22 years and six months in jail for trafficking a Rohingya victim.

The Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) said Anat Hayeemasae was sentenced by the Songkhla Provincial Court on Tuesday.  

Anat was sentenced to 18 months for bringing an illegal migrant into the country and providing him with shelter, six years for human trafficking and 15 years for holding a person to ransom.

The court also ordered him to pay 126,900 baht in compensation to the victim, the HRDF said.

The HRDF's lawyer represented the victim in court. On March 10 last year, police from Immigration Office 6 rescued the migrant at the Hat Yai bus terminal in Songkhla's Hat Yai district. 

Authorities had learned the Rohingya migrant's family was preparing to pay 60,000 baht to Anat to secure the migrant's freedom that day.

Relatives of the victim had been asked to bring the ransom money to the bus terminal. The group did not reveal the name of the Rohingya victim. Authorities lying in wait arrested Anat at the time of the handover.

According to Phuketwan.com, Anat was found guilty of human trafficking after investigators brought back a key witness who had been intimidated into fleeing to Malaysia.

Immigration Division 6 chief Thatchai Pitaneelaboot, who oversaw the sting operation, said: "This is a big step forward for human trafficking enforcement in Thailand. It's a breakthrough for those people who believe these crimes should be stopped."

Pol Maj Gen Thatchai said convictions for human trafficking are difficult and the case against Anat was successful because of the solid evidence.

The key witness, who has since been placed as a refugee in Sweden, was initially kept in a safe house after the Anat's arrest. But it is believed he was intimidated by trafficking gang associates of the accused and fled to Malaysia.

Pol Maj Gen Thatchai sent a secret agent to Malaysia to bring back the key witness to testify. It is believed the accused and his defence team were "unpleasantly surprised" when the key witness arrived in court.

Other senior officials in Satun province have since been accused of trafficking-related crimes and are awaiting trial.

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