RVISION September 1, 2016

A man whose trucks were stopped while carrying nearly 100 persecuted Rohingya has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for human trafficking.

On Jan. 11, 2015, police intercepted five vehicles at a checkpoint in Hua Sai district of Nakhon Si Thammarat province, discovering 98 “very thin and tired men, women and children”.

Of the group, 42 were boys and girls younger than 14, and one Rohingya was dead.

The case, settled Wednesday at the provincial court, led to the discovery of jungle camps, mass graves and an international trafficking ring.

Sunand, also known as Ko Mit Saengthong, was arrested at a checkpoint. Police evidence against him included data from mobile phones seized from the drivers of the vehicles and bank transactions linking him to a trafficking syndicate.

On Wednesday, the court convicted Sunand of human trafficking, enslavement, and harbouring aliens, according to human rights lawyer Janjira Janpaew, who has been monitoring the case.

In addition to the prison sentence, Sunand was fined 660,000 baht.

“We didn’t think that the court was going to come down this hard, with 35 years. The punishment was more than we had expected,” Janjira told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone.

Two other defendants in the case, Suriya Yodrak and Warachai Chadathong, were found guilty of illegally bringing aliens into Thailand and sentenced to a year in prison. The court reduced the sentence of Suriya, who pleaded guilty, to six months.

There are at least eight other court cases pending that are related to the Rohingya trafficking rings, according to the Migrant Working Group, which is monitoring the cases.

The major trial has already begun. It includes at least 88 defendants and some 500 witnesses.

Note: Changes have been made, REUTERS is not responsible for responsible for these.