A total of 98 Rohingya migrants, believed to have been smuggled into the country by a human-trafficking ring, were arrested at a checkpoint in Hua Sai district of Nakhon Si Thammarat province early on Sunday, according to Manager Online.
Pol Capt Somporn Thongcheen, deputy suppression chief of Hua Sai district, said police set up the checkpoint on the Nakhon Si Thammarat-Songkhla road at Village Group 2 in tambon Sai Khao after obtaining information that a number of illegal migrants would be sent through Hua Sai district, heading for Songkhla.
At about 4am, a convoy of vehicles was spotted moving along the road toward the checkpoint. Officers were able to stop five of them, but the rest managed to escaped. The vehicles were three four-door pickup trucks, one pickup truck modified as a van, and a Toyota Fortuner.
The drivers of three vehicles fled the scene. Only two drivers were arrested. They were identified as Sawat Phadungchart, 29, of Ranong's Suksamran district, and Suthipong Chuaypat, 49, of Surat Thani's Chaiya district.
The 98 Rohingya migrants were found crammed in the five vehicles. One of them, a woman, died, probably because she had been squashed tight in a vehicle for a long time. All of the others appeared exhausted.
The Rohingya were taken to Hua Sai district police station for examination and official recording. They were then taken in small groups to Hua Sai Hospital for treatment as all had been crammed into the vehicles without food for two days.
Under initial questioning, the two drivers said they had picked up the Rohingya from a coastal area of Phangnga and were taking them to Songkhla.
Churin Khwanthong, chief of the social development and human security office of Nakhon Si Thammarat, assigned officials to interview each of the Rohingya migrants through interpreters to find out if they were victims of a human-trafficking movement.
Many local Muslim people, on learning of the arrest of the Rohingya, came to the police station to give them food and clothing.
The dead Rohingya woman was buried by workers of the Pracha Ruamjai Foundation.