Rohingya victims of alleged rape and trafficking had to be forcibly separated from one of the accused by police in emotional scenes on Phang Nga just before they left to re-enact the crime scene on an island off Kuraburi district.
Five female Rohingya, two of them minors, claim they were lured from the Phang Nga refugee shelter on May 27 by a migrant and a police officer. Two of the Rohingya adults were released 11 days later after failing to give more money to the two suspects.
Female victims point to one of the two suspects at Kuraburi police station. (Photo by Achara Ashayagachat)
The other adult and her two children say they were taken to an island, one hour from Kuraburi district. The mother was raped there three times by the migrant, she claimed.
One of the accused, Snr Sgt Veerayut Ferngfull, from Tai Muang police station, was not at the re-enactment scene Monday. Pol Maj Gen Chalit Kaewyarat, commander of Phang Nga Police, said an order to suspend or fire Mr Veerayut would be finalised in a day or two.
"We do not intend to delay the case, we just want to give fairness to all. In Mr Veerayut's case, the criminal charge has left him with only one option - severe disciplinary punishment which could result in him being fired or dismissed if found guilty," said Pol Maj Gen Chalit in a telephone interview.
Korlimula Ramahaty, 26, the other suspect who carries a migrant card issued in Pattani province, denied all of the charges.
Mr Veerayut, 42, was charged on three counts including collaboration in trafficking, coercion and detention, and negligence and dereliction of duty.
Mr Korlimula was charged with trafficking collaboration, detention and rape.
The five victims emotionally scolded Mr Korlimula on Monday as a group of police, officials and those involved were on a pier and getting ready to leave for the island to re-enact the crime scene. One of the Rohingya children took off her shoes and threatened to throw them at Mr Korlimula. Officials from the Phang Nga state housing office and police officers had to separate the irate Rohingya from the suspect.
The head of Phang Nga Shelter for Children and Family, Dararat Suthes, said she was saddened by the incidents and was now trying to get the victims all possible justice.
Mr Korlimula appeared at the state housing shelter a week before the five victims were enticed to escape.
He convinced the Rohingya that he was one of them and told them that Thailand would send them back home rather than on to third countries. Many believed he could help them to go elsewhere, Ms Dararat said.
A victim points at a room on the island where she was kept from June 9 to 11, 2013. (Photo by Achara Ashayagachat)
Kuraburi police station superintendent Pol Col Veerasilp Kwanseng said it was a rare trafficking case but he was confident the victims had provided strong evidence.
Pol Col Veerasilp was in Ranong when the Rohingya displaced persons issue emerged in 2009. He said the Ranong cases, including the 54 Rohingya deaths in a truck, had no legal antecedents to assist in trafficking lawsuits.
Amy Smith, Amnesty International Myanmar and Thailand researcher, said the allegations of police involvement in this matter was deeply concerning and demanded an immediate response.
"While it is positive that the police are following through with an investigation into this incident, it is imperative that the investigation is impartial and all those found to be involved are held to account," said Ms Smith who was at Kuraburi police station.
She said Thailand's "helping on" policy must be brought to an end and asylum seekers should have access to a full, effective and fair procedure to assess their asylum claims.