SONGKHLA/PHATTHALUNG: Forty-three Myanmar nationals who entered the country illegally to get jobs in Malaysia and seven Thai smugglers were arrested in two separate police operations in these two southern provinces on Friday.
In Songkhla, immigration police and local officers intercepted two of four suspected box pickup trucks at a road checkpoint in Rattaphum district, following information that a smuggling gang was using vehicles with cargo space to smuggle illegal migrants into the country. Two other pickup trucks managed to flee.
The search found 18 men and four women crammed into the bed of one of the pickup trucks. All were illegal migrants from Myanmar.
Sophonwit Chaiyaming, 23, driver of the pickup truck loaded with the migrants, and Anuphong Fuengfu, 23, who drove another vehicle to clear the way, were arrested. Four mobile phones were seized from the two men, both from Samut Prakan province.
Mr Anuphong told police that a job broker had contacted him and three other drivers to transport a group of illegal migrants from a forested area in Prachuap Khiri Khan to Songkhla. He was tasked with leading the three other vehicles along the smuggling route. He had been offered 15,000 baht and would get the money after finishing the task.
Mr Sophonwit said he had been offered by the job broker 16,000 baht to transport the migrants and would be paid after the job was done.
During questioning, the migrants told the arresting team via an interpreter that they had travelled from various towns in Myanmar to get work in Malaysia. They had contacted a Myanmar job broker who charged them 60,000 baht each and they had already made the payments. They had crossed the border to Prachuap Khiri Khan and were hiding in the forest before one pickup truck was sent to pick them up.
Police charged the two Thai men with assisting illegal border crossers and related offences. while the migrants were charged with illegal entry.
This box pickup truck is used to transport the migrants. (Photo: Assawin Pakkawan)
In Phatthalung, police arrested 21 illegal job brokers from Myanmar and five guides in a Pa Bon district on the same day.
The migrants – and 15 men and six women – were found hiding in a forested area about 800 metres away from a police checkpoint. They were held for questioning.
They told police that they had crossed the border to Ranong province and a six-wheel truck was sent to pick them along the route to southern border areas near Malaysia. When arriving in Pa Pon, another vehicle which travelled ahead alerted the truck driver that there was a police checkpoint along the route. The truck driver then transported them to a rubber plantation and asked them to get off. They then hid in the nearby forested before being arrested.
Later, five Thais – four men and a woman – on board four pickup trucks arrived at the spot to pick the migrants. All were arrested.
They were identified as Hamdee Maree, 35, of Pattani’s Yarang district; Sofia Jarong, 24, of the same district; Nahamamad Maeroh, 20, of Yala’s Bannang Sata district; Ousueman Maseng, 45, of Pattani’s Muang district; and Ms Khochana Maseng, 31.
All were taken to Pa Bon police station for legal action.
Another group of 21 Myanmar nationals are arrested in Pa Bon district, Phatthalung. (Photo: Assawin Pakkawan)