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Thai prosecutors press charges against more than 100 suspects in human trafficking scandal

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BANGKOK — Thailand's state prosecutors recommended charges against more than 100 people, including a Thai army general, in a multinational human trafficking scandal that came to light after dozens of bodies were discovered in the country's south earlier this year, a spokesman said Friday.

Ninety-one Thais, nine Myanmar nationals and four Bangladeshis face 16 charges, including human trafficking, partaking in a transnational crime network, and assisting or bringing in aliens into the kingdom illegally, Office of the Attorney General spokesman Wanchai Roujanavong told reporters.

"The investigation showed it is a big syndicate. There were networks that brought them (the migrants) from overseas into the country systematically," he said. "There were a lot of damages. Bodies were found. Senior officials were accused, as well as influential figures. The Office of the Attorney General, therefore, treats it as a very important case."

He said provincial prosecutors have pressed charges against 72 arrested suspects and were waiting to proceed with 32 others who remained at large.

The sweeping investigation, in which 15 Thai state officials were implicated, came after 36 bodies, believed to be migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh, were exhumed from various abandoned jungle camps near the Thai-Malaysian border in May.

PHOTO: Office of the Attorney General spokesman Wanchai Roujanavong talks to reporters during a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, July 24, 2015. Thailand's state prosecutors recommended charges against more than 100 people, including a Thai army general, in a multinational human trafficking scandal that came to light after dozens of bodies were discovered in the country's south earlier this year, a spokesman said Friday. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Office of the Attorney General spokesman Wanchai Roujanavong talks to reporters during a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, July 24, 2015. Thailand's state prosecutors recommended charges against more than 100 people, including a Thai army general, in a multinational human trafficking scandal that came to light after dozens of bodies were discovered in the country's south earlier this year, a spokesman said Friday. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

The discovery has intensified international pressure on Thailand to crack down on smugglers. More than 50 people were arrested in a month, including local politicians, government officials, police, and a senior-ranking army officer who once oversaw human trafficking issues in the country's south. About 50 police officers in the southern provinces were removed from their posts and investigated for possible involvement in trafficking syndicates.

The 15 state officials, including Lt. Gen. Manas Kongpaen, four policemen, a powerful provincial mayor and local politicians, will also face charges of negligence of their duty, according to the spokesman.

Human rights groups have long accused Thai authorities of collusion in the trafficking industry, but officials have routinely denied the claims.

Wanchai said charges have not been presses against other 15 suspects as recommended by the police, but additional investigations have been ordered.

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This story has been corrected to show the number of bodies found were 36, not 33.

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