An army general, two provincial politicians and police officers were among those found guilty in Thailand's biggest human trafficking trial.

A brutal trade left desperate Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants stranded on boats and in jungle death camps.
A brutal trade left desperate Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants stranded on boats and in jungle death camps.

A Thai general, police officers and local politicians were among dozens jailed on for trafficking of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants. Many of those convicted were handed decades-long sentences at a mass trial exposing official complicity in the grim trade.

The trial, which began in 2015, had been marred by allegations of intimidation of witnesses, interpreters and police investigators.

Some of those guilty of trafficking were also convicted of taking part in organised transnational crime, forcible detention leading to death, and rape.

A Bangkok court took more than 12 hours to deliver its ruling which rights groups said showed the government was serious about convicting perpetrators.

Amongst the 103 people that went on trial, 62 were found guilty.

The most senior government figure found guilty was Lieutenant-General Manas Kongpan, who received 27 years for multiple human trafficking charges and other offences.

It is extremely rare for senior military figures in Thailand to see the inside of a courtroom, let alone a jail.

Others received even more severe punishments. One Myanmar national who helped run the jungle camps received 94 years in jail, at least 17 others got terms more than seven-decades long. Under Thai law, however, the maximum sentence a prisoner serves is 50 years.

Manas was a top figure in the security apparatus covering Thailand's south, a key transit zone in a trafficking trail that stretched from Myanmar to Malaysia.

The court heard he received bank transfers from trafficking agents worth $440,000 (14.8 million baht).

But the police investigation found he also used his position to guide trafficking gangs around checkpoints after their arrival on remote beaches as they headed to the jungle camps.

In 2013, he was promoted to head the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) for the entire south. Current junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha was army chief at the time.

Before the crackdown, rights groups had long accused officials of ignoring and even conducting the trade in humans through Thailand's southern provinces.

The trial revealed a network of military, police, local political and mafia figures acting as traffickers, agents and logistics men, all soaking up cash from some of Asia's poorest migrants.

Thailand's role as a key trafficking route spilled into full view after officials found dozens of shallow graves in the hidden camps dotting the steep, forested hills of the Thai-Malaysian border in May 2015.

They revealed the horrors endured by some of the migrants, who were starved and held in bamboo pens by traffickers who demanded over $1,000 for their release.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies