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Thailand's crackdown on human-trafficking syndicates targets corrupt police, local officials

  • Thai Police chief Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung talks to reporters before a meeting about Anti Human Trafficking at the police headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, May 8, 2015. Thailand's national police chief said a powerful mayor was arrested Friday and that more than 50 police officers were under investigation in the country's widening human-trafficking scandal. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

    Thai Police chief Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung talks to reporters before a meeting about Anti Human Trafficking at the police headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, May 8, 2015. Thailand's national police chief said a powerful mayor was arrested Friday and that more than 50 police officers were under investigation in the country's widening human-trafficking scandal. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)  (The Associated Press)

  • Thai policemen listen to Thai Police chief Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung during a meeting about Anti Human Trafficking at the police headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand , Friday, May 8, 2015. Thailand's national police chief said a powerful mayor was arrested Friday and that more than 50 police officers were under investigation in the country's widening human-trafficking scandal. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

    Thai policemen listen to Thai Police chief Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung during a meeting about Anti Human Trafficking at the police headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand , Friday, May 8, 2015. Thailand's national police chief said a powerful mayor was arrested Friday and that more than 50 police officers were under investigation in the country's widening human-trafficking scandal. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)  (The Associated Press)

Thailand's national police chief says that a powerful local mayor was arrested and more than 50 police officers are under investigation in the country's widening human-trafficking scandal.

Police chief Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung said Friday that the mayor of Padang Besar was a "key suspect" in the investigation that began a week ago when dozens of bodies were exhumed from a jungle camp in the mountains of his constituency.

Somyot vowed that "heads will roll" in the police force, adding that police had been warned not to get involved in trafficking "but you didn't listen."

Somyot's comments marked the strongest admission yet of police involvement in trafficking syndicates that use Thailand as a regional transit hub and hold migrants in jungle camps while extorting ransom from their families.