Thailand Agrees to Extradite 10 Trafficking Suspects to Malaysia

Nontarat Phaicharoen and Hata Wahari
Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur
160829_MY_TH_Trafficking_1000.jpg Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan (left) is pictured with his Malaysian counterpart Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Aug. 29, 2016.
Courtesy of Malaysian Home Ministry

Thailand confirmed Tuesday that it was processing a Malaysian request to extradite 10 suspects to the neighbouring country in connection with the discovery of mass graves at a human trafficking camp in northern Malaysia in May 2015.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting Tuesday, Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan, Thailand’s deputy prime minister and defense minister, said the extradition would happen if all legal requirements were met.

“If it is doable, we can send them over. I am having the immigration police see what happened and at which stage they are at. If we can send [them], we will,” Prawit told reporters in Bangkok.

The nationalities of suspects were not immediately disclosed.

On Tuesday, a senior Malaysian official – Norzihan Tamdi, special officer to Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi – told BenarNews they were Thai nationals.

Zahid announced the extradition deal after bilateral meetings during Prawit’s one-day visit to Malaysia on Monday.

He said Malaysian officials had advised Bangkok in early August about 10 individuals between the ages of 35 and 60, who were wanted in connection with mass graves discovered in Wang Kelian in the northern state of Perlis in May 2015.

“I handed over the names and today, the Thai authorities informed us of the action taken as a follow-up to Malaysia’s request. We will take custody of the 10 people as soon as Thailand hands them over to us,” Malaysian state news agency Bernama quoted him as saying.

“They must be extradited to allow for legal action to be taken against them. We do not want the international community to view the case as only a Malaysian one, but a cross-border crime,” he said.

“However, the extradition must go through several processes as well as legal procedures, and it must be in accordance with the International Transfer of Prisoners,” Zahid added.

Some of the 10 suspects were already in Thai custody, Zahid said.

Three sentenced so far

Zahid – who is also Malaysia’s home minister – added that his country was seeking Thai cooperation in identifying individuals with dual nationalities. Malaysia has asked Thailand to provide fingerprints or biometric data to positively identify dual Malay-Thai citizens as a security precaution.

In May 2015, Malaysian officials discovered 139 graves containing 106 corpses in abandoned human smuggling camps in Bukit Genting Perah and Bukit Wang Burma, hundreds of meters from the Thai-Malaysia border, near the town of Wang Kelian.

The same month, 36 corpses were found in similar sites on the Thai side of the border.

Following that discovery, Thailand launched a crackdown on human smuggling that triggered a humanitarian crisis. Close to 3,000 ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladesh nationals, abandoned by their handlers, suddenly came ashore in Malaysia and Indonesia.

As many as 103 individuals, including a Thai army general, are on trial for human smuggling in Thailand, a lawyer involved in the case told BenarNews.

For the last two years, in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, the U.S. government has placed Malaysia on its Tier Two Watch List – one level above the lowest ranking. Thailand was upgraded from Tier Three this year.

Malaysia has launched a national action plan with the aim of reaching tier one by 2020.

To date, however, the country has prosecuted only three individuals for human trafficking stemming from the Wang Kelian case.

On Aug. 19, a court in Perlis sentenced two 18-year-old Myanmar nationals to three years in prison for smuggling a 15-year-old boy in the Wang Kelian area between August 2014 and March 2015. The two defendants, named as Shahidullah and Momotin, told the court they had committed the crime to avoid being beaten.

In June 2016, the Perlis High Court sentenced Bangladeshi national, Nurul Islam, 32, to 10 years in prison on three counts of human smuggling and trafficking. During his trial, Nurul Islam claimed he was forced to commit the offenses by another agent of a smuggling syndicate who would beat him if he refused to follow orders.


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