A general in Thailand wanted by police in connection with trafficking Rohingya refugees has turned himself in. Thailand has launched a crackdown on the practice, which exploits the minority Muslims from Myanmar.
On Wednesday, Lieutenant General Manus Kongpang turned himself in to face charges relating to the human trafficking of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar.
Manus is the first military official to be arrested since Thai authorities launched a probe into a mass grave found last month containing the bodies of Rohingya refugees. Previous arrests have included local police and village officials thought to have been participating in the human trafficking, which exploited Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing Myanmar.
"He insisted that he had no involvement and denied the charges," police chief Somyot Poompanmoung told reporters of Manus' response to the arrest warrant from earlier in the week.
In Myanmar, the Rohingya are a persecuted minority of more than a million living in Rakhine state of mainly Buddhist Myanmar.
Boat headed to Myanmar
Meanwhile, a boat with 727 migrants on board found adrift in the Bay of Bengal last week is bound for Myanmar on Wednesday under escort from Myanmar's navy. It is expected to arrive later in the day.
"The operation is starting. They will be taken to a safe destination," Myanmar Information Minister Ye Htut told the Reuters news agency. The exact destination was not disclosed due to "security and safety concerns," Ye Htut said.
The region is in the middle of a mass migration crisis, with thousands of people believed to have been abandoned at sea on crowded and rickety boats after being abandoned by human traffickers following a crackdown by Thai authorities in early May.
About 3,500 have landed on Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian soil in recent weeks but the United Nations estimates about 2,000 could still be at sea.
Representatives of 17 governments from across Asia as well as from the United States and Switzerland, along with organizations such as the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, attended a summit in Bangkok last week to address the migrant crisis.
mz/msh (AP, dpa, Reuters)