Thai police have uncovered a ‘Rohingya Express’ which ferries illegal ethnic Rohingya in specially-modified express buses in Bangkok to the southern provinces near the Thai-Malaysia border before smuggling them into Malaysia.
In mounting an operation yesterday, Thai police discovered that human trafficking syndicates were using several express buses plying the Bangkok-Hatyai routes were modified to have a secret compartment to conceal illegal Rohingya for the southbound journey.
"We found that these buses have secret compartments to hide the Rohingya for trafficking to southern provinces. (On arrival in the south) They (the traffickers) will hand over the Rohingya to agents who will smuggle them into Malaysia," said Tourist Police deputy chief, Maj Gen Surachet Hakpan after leading the operations in Bangkok.
Also involved in the operations were officials from the Department of Land Transport who confirmed the existence of the specially-modified buses.
According to Surachet, the police have already identified a foreign man who masterminded the trafficking of Rohingya to southern Thailand using express buses and were in the midst of tracking him down to facilitate investigations.
“The authorities will also issue an arrest warrant for the suspected mastermind,” he said, adding that about 30 bus drivers were under investigation for probable complicity to the crime.
At least six buses were found to have been reportedly fitted with special compartments which did not meet the standard regulations set by the Department of Land Transport, said Surachet.
The police discovered the latest tactic of using express buses to traffick Rohingya illegals to southern Thailand following a recent case in the Chaiya district in Surat Thani province.
In that case, several Rohingya illegals were found hiding in a secret compartment within the express bus but were nabbed before they managed to reach the southern province.
Besides buses, Thai authorities have also arrested Rohingya illegals travelling in a south-bound train in an attempt to reach Malaysia.