High-ranking Thai officials to face charges in Thai berry pickers’ human trafficking case

The Department of Special Investigation has reached an agreement to prosecute former ministers and senior executives of the Ministry of Labour for accepting bribes after they were found to be involved in sending Thai workers to be victims of human trafficking in Finland.

On 11 January, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) released a statement on the agreement to prosecute the four figures involved in sending Thai berry pickers to be victims of human trafficking in Finland. According to the statement, the four will be charged with accepting bribes, and the wrongful exercise of duties. In addition, they also are subject to principal and accomplice offences. However, the DSI has not yet revealed the names of the officials in question.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), together with the Royal Thai Embassy in Helsinki, assisted Thai berry pickers who legally came to work in Finland but fell victim to human trafficking. The MFA referred the case to the DSI, seeking an investigation. Because it was an offence that partly occurred outside the country, the DSI referred the case to the Attorney General, which sought international cooperation to obtain crucial evidence from Finland.

Evidence from several parties revealed a conspiracy involving politicians, government officials and others. Despite having no authority, they sought benefits from Thai agencies that recruited Thai workers for Finland. The benefits in question were processing fees, which were around 3,000 baht per person, which the agencies required the workers to pay in addition to the actual expenses. 

The DSI stated that in 2020-2023, approximately 12,000 Thai workers had to pay this additional fee, totalling around 36 million baht. As a result, the DSI decided to prosecute the four figures and will submit the case to the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission for further action.

Meanwhile, Piroj Chotikasatien, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, told Matichon that no Ministry officials were involved in this case. He said if the accusations are proven false, the Ministry will sue the person who reported the information to the DSI.

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