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Thailand convicts traffickers

A Thai judge has found dozens of people guilty, including senior army general, in the country’s largest ever human trafficking trial following the discovery two years ago of mass graves in a squalid jungle camp where hundreds of migrants had been brutally exploited.

Manas Kongpan a General is among more than 40 people convicted in the trafficking of Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims, a persecuted minority fleeing Myanmar.

More than 100 defendants are on trial on charges including trafficking, kidnapping and murder.

Muslim Rohingya have been fleeing Myanmar for years, paying people smugglers to help them escape.

Police opened the case after more than two dozen bodies were discovered in a shallow grave in southern Songkhla province in 2015. Authorities said the victims had been held captive by people-smugglers who kept migrants as hostages for ransom.

The case led to a crackdown on smuggling networks that brought people from Myanmar and Bangladesh to Thailand. But government action resulted in a secondary crisis in which smugglers, fearing arrest, abandoned boatloads of migrants. The UN refugee agency estimated hundreds died at sea, primarily as a result of starvation, dehydration and beatings by boat crews.

The crisis escalated after international pressure forced the Thai authorities to crack down on the smuggling networks.

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