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Thai police detain 220 suspected Turkish migrants

March 13, 2014

HAT YAI, Thailand (AP) — Thai authorities on Thursday detained 220 suspected Turkish migrants hiding in a secluded camp in the deep south and believed to be victims of a trafficking ring.

Acting on a tip from villagers, immigration police raided the jungle camp located up a mountain behind rubber plantations in southern Songkhla province, said police Col. Chusak Panas-umporn. The group included 78 men, 60 women and 82 children.

Thailand has long been a transit point and hub for human traffickers, mostly transporting ethnic Rohingya fleeing violence and persecution in neighboring Myanmar.

Chusak said the group detained Thursday identified themselves as Turkish Muslims but did not carry any identification documents. Police were seeking a Turkish translator to try to communicate with the group members before pressing charges of illegal entry against them.

Police suspected the traffickers were planning to move the group to a third country. He said the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, was helping the immigrants.

Chusak said it was the first time police had detained a group of this unidentified ethnicity in Songkhla, which is a common crossing point for Rohingya.

More than 800 beleaguered Rohingya were found in raids in Songkhla in January 2013 after they fled sectarian violence in western Myanmar that has killed hundreds of people and displaced some 100,000 more.

Thai police arrested several trafficking suspects after those raids, including an influential local politician. Thai media reported at the time that at least two senior military officers were involved in the trafficking network.

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