World

Thailand arrests 3 local officials, vows crackdown on human traffickers' hidden jungle camps

  • A survivor Tutan Saha, who claimed he was Bangladeshi and was rescued, Friday, May 1, from a detention camp in the Thai-Malaysian border, talks to a Muslim official at a hospital in Padang Besar, Songkhla province, southern Thailand, Monday, May 4, 2015.  Thai police arrested three officials and a Myanmar national in the first real attempt to crack down on a long-existing criminal network that smuggles members of a persecuted Muslim minority of Myanmar into Thailand and keeps them captive under deplorable conditions in the jungles of Thailand.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

    A survivor Tutan Saha, who claimed he was Bangladeshi and was rescued, Friday, May 1, from a detention camp in the Thai-Malaysian border, talks to a Muslim official at a hospital in Padang Besar, Songkhla province, southern Thailand, Monday, May 4, 2015. Thai police arrested three officials and a Myanmar national in the first real attempt to crack down on a long-existing criminal network that smuggles members of a persecuted Muslim minority of Myanmar into Thailand and keeps them captive under deplorable conditions in the jungles of Thailand.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)  (The Associated Press)

  • Thailand's national police chief Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung, second from left, holds a pistol seized from one of the three suspects believed to be involved in the human trafficking network after mass graves were discovered on May 1, during a press conference in Hat Yat, Songkhla province, southern Thailand, Monday, May 4, 2015. Police arrested three Thai officials and a Myanmar national in a crackdown on a long-existing criminal network that smuggles persecuted ethnic Muslims from Myanmar into Thailand and holds them captive in camps where scores have died before they can pay ransoms demanded for their freedom. (AP Photo/ ?Thanyarat Doksone)

    Thailand's national police chief Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung, second from left, holds a pistol seized from one of the three suspects believed to be involved in the human trafficking network after mass graves were discovered on May 1, during a press conference in Hat Yat, Songkhla province, southern Thailand, Monday, May 4, 2015. Police arrested three Thai officials and a Myanmar national in a crackdown on a long-existing criminal network that smuggles persecuted ethnic Muslims from Myanmar into Thailand and holds them captive in camps where scores have died before they can pay ransoms demanded for their freedom. (AP Photo/ ?Thanyarat Doksone)  (The Associated Press)

  • A survivor Tutan Saha, who claimed he was Bangladeshi and was rescued, Friday, May 1, from a detention camp in the Thai-Malaysian border, talks to a Muslim official at a hospital in Padang Besar, Songkhla province, southern Thailand, Monday, May 4, 2015.  Thai police arrested three officials and a Myanmar national in the first real attempt to crack down on a long-existing criminal network that smuggles members of a persecuted Muslim minority of Myanmar into Thailand and keeps them captive under deplorable conditions in the jungles of Thailand.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

    A survivor Tutan Saha, who claimed he was Bangladeshi and was rescued, Friday, May 1, from a detention camp in the Thai-Malaysian border, talks to a Muslim official at a hospital in Padang Besar, Songkhla province, southern Thailand, Monday, May 4, 2015. Thai police arrested three officials and a Myanmar national in the first real attempt to crack down on a long-existing criminal network that smuggles members of a persecuted Muslim minority of Myanmar into Thailand and keeps them captive under deplorable conditions in the jungles of Thailand.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)  (The Associated Press)

Thai authorities have arrested three local officials they allege were involved in trafficking and holding Rohingya Muslims for ransom at a jungle camp where 26 bodies were found last week in the mountains of southern Thailand.

National police chief Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung said Monday that the suspects — two deputy village chiefs and a municipal councilor — were believed to be part of a "transnational crime network" that included people from Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia and had been operating for three or four years.

The arrests came after the grim discovery Friday of 26 buried bodies at an abandoned camp in southern Thailand, long considered a regional trafficking hub for migrants seeking a better life in third countries.

The Rohingya Muslims are a long-persecuted religious minority in neighboring Myanmar.