Thailand’s senior human trafficking investigator seeking asylum in Australia

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Security forces and rescue workers inspect an abandoned camp at a rubber plantation near a mountain in Thailand's southern Songkhla province May 7, 2015. More than 50 Thai police officers have been punished over suspected links to human trafficking networks, the country's police chief said on Thursday, after the prime minister ordered a probe into the discovery of trafficking camps near the Malaysian border. Reuters/Surapan Boonthanom

The head investigator into human trafficking cases in Thailand has fled the country fearing for his life and is seeking political asylum in Australia. Major General Paween Pongsirin said people holding influential positions in Thai government, military and police have been involved in the crime of human trafficking and are after his life.

Pongsirin arrived in Australia a few days back and is presently staying in the country on tourist visa. He has told the ABC’s 7:30 program and the Guardian Australia that he is planning to seek asylum in the country.

He was involved in the investigations surrounding the trafficking of Muslim Rohingya migrants following the discovery of 26 corpses and mass graves in Thailand earlier in May. According him, high ranking officials in Thailand tried to stop the investigations a number of times.

"A lot of government officials should be facing justice," Major General Paween told 7:30. "There are good soldiers but the police and the military are involved in running the human trafficking. Unfortunately the bad police and the bad military are the ones that have power."

The investigations, which have now been called off, led to the arrest of as many as 153 people. These arrests included a number of local politicians, four policemen, wealthy businessmen, members of the Thai army and navy and even the Internal Security Operation Command.

Of these people, 91 have been charged and are now appearing for trials before the court in Bangkok.

Pongsirin expects Australia to grant him asylum. “I worked in the trafficking area to help human beings who were in trouble,” he told the Guardian. “I wasn’t thinking of a personal benefit but now it is me who is in trouble. I believe there should be some safe place for me, somewhere on this earth to help me.”

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