Khao Lak Police Station: the women have been refused their case file Photo by phuketwan.com
By Chutima Sidasathin and Alan Morison
Monday, June 24, 2013
PHUKET: A family refuge north of Phuket was being turned into a fortress today as the women and children inside faced death threats and local police appeared unwilling to expose the involvement of officers in people-trafficking.
A direct death threat was made at the weekend by a Thai man at the gates of the family refuge in the popular tourist destination of Khao Lak, where 61 Rohingya women and children are being housed.
The female director of the refuge has been issued with a gun and security cameras now record all activities around the perimeter of the shelter.
In trying to pursue allegations of abduction and rape, three women and two children and the shelter staff supporting them were today being given the run-around by police throughout the province of Phang Nga.
With people-trafficking in Thailand being highlighted in a US Trafficking in Persons report last week, one local officer has been accused of driving a vehicle used by traffickers to transport the Rohingya women and children, leading to the rape of one woman.
A Phuketwan reporter and four police accompanied three of the women and a child at the weekend on a replay of their abduction to the places where they were held prisoner over a period of days.
Destinations they visited included the home of a woman believed to be related to the policeman and the house on remote Yeepon island where the woman says she was raped on three successive nights.
The women made depositions at Khao Lak Police Station describing the alleged abduction and rape in detail.
But today, the Deputy Commander of Police in Phang Nga told the women at the centre that the case will have to be pursued at Kuraburi Police Station, further north.
When a representative from the shelter went to Khao Lak Police Station and asked for the depositions file so that the case could be pursued at Kuraburi Police Station, officers at Khao Lak refused to hand the file over.
A known Rohingya trafficker has been accused of the rape and is being held in Takuapa Prison on a charge of being an illegal immigrant.
The women absconded from the family centre on the promise by a well-known local trafficker that they would be reunited with families in Malaysia.
They recognised the driver of the vehicle when they first went to Khao Lak Police Station to report the rape – and saw the man there, in police uniform.
The case threatens to finally expose the people-trafficking that has become a local industry along the Andaman coast north of Phuket with the knowledge and probable involvement of police and Thailand’s military.