Seventy-three illegal Bangladeshi migrants have been arrested in the southern provinces of Songkhla and Phatthalung while being smuggled to work in Malaysia through Thailand.
The first arrests, jointly conducted by immigration and tourist police, occurred at an intersection on the southbound Asian Highway 2 in tambon Khuan Ru of Songkhla’s Rattaphum district, where a pickup truck was intercepted and searched at about 11pm on Tuesday.
The vehicle was found carrying 15 illegal migrants from Bangladesh, according to Pol Lt Col Phongsiri Phitak, a Songkhla immigration inspector, who led the operation. They were hidden under a tarpaulin.
The Bangladeshi migrants were detained, and the Thai driver, Saifa Chinnaket, 28, was arrested. He admitted the smuggling of the 15 illegal migrants from Chachoengsao to Songkhla for 2,000 baht per head.
In addition, the migrants paid 120,000 baht each to brokers to help them cross the border from Cambodia into Sa Kaeo in Thailand as a transit point for onward travel to Malaysia.
It was unclear how the migrants managed to travel from Bangladesh to Cambodia.
All were handed over to Rattaphum district police for questioning.
More arrests took place at a road checkpoint on the inbound Asian Highway in Khuan Khanun district of Phatthalung, where police, led by Pol Capt Chamnan Suwanchatree, deputy inspector of Highway Division 2’s Sub-division 7, searched three pickup trucks.
Police discovered 58 Bangladeshi migrants, including 26 women and seven children, hidden under a tarpaulin.
Police arrested the drivers and three other people in the vehicles.
The migrants told police that they had crossed the border from Myanmar into Thailand, from where the brokers would take them to Malaysia. They also said their travel costs were covered by the brokers.
One of the drivers, identified only as Jirayut, 25, said he was paid to smuggle the migrants to Songkhla for 1,500 baht per head. However, they were arrested in Phatthalung before the journey was completed.
He previously drove another group of illegal migrants to Prachuap Khiri Khan.