Cops get permission to arrest top Thai army officer

A Songkhla province court has approved an arrest warrant for a top army officer accused of smuggling Rohingya Muslim migrants into Thailand.

National police chief Gen Pol Gen Somyot Pumpunmuang said Monday that the Na Thawi Provincial Court agreed on Sunday to a police request for the wrrant for Lt Gen Manus Kongpan, a senior Royal Thai Army adviser.

Lt Gen Manus becomes the most senior official to have been accused in the month-old human-trafficking scandal ignited by the discovery of mass migrant graves in Songkhla May 1. To date, 82 warrants have been issued with 51 suspects detained. The rest remain at large or have yet to turn themselves in, including Lt Gen Manus.

Deputy police chief Pol Gen Ek Angsananon said the 58-year-old officer had has contacted police to arrange his surrender. The army adviser, however, told reporters on Monday he was unaware of the warrant.

Lt Gen Manus worked in the southern provinces from 2007 before being appointed an adviser during the April military reshuffle. His positions in the southern region included commander of the 42nd Military Circle in Songkhla province and the army chief responsible for Chumphon province.

Army commander Udomdej Sitabutr – who earlier said he was not aware of any army officials involved in human trafficking – said he was informed about the police’s targeting of his subordinate and the army had closely coordinated with police on in the case.

“I have been informed (about him) for some time. The arrest warrant for Lt Gen Manus was not a shock,” he said. The army commander said the army will give police a free hand to interrogate the officer.

An army source said Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon had been aware of the move by police. The two and Gen Udomdej gave investigators the green light to take action, the source added.

The ministry planned to suspend Lt Gen Manus from duty and investigate, said the source.

Source: The Daily Star

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