News/THAILAND: THAILAND INVESTIGATING WHY BOY WAS TAKEN TO U.S.

New Message Reply Date view Thread view Subject view Author view Other groups

Subject: News/THAILAND: THAILAND INVESTIGATING WHY BOY WAS TAKEN TO U.S.
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Wed May 10 2000 - 08:57:56 EDT


04May00 THAILAND: THAILAND INVESTIGATING WHY BOY WAS TAKEN TO U.S.
By Sutin Wannabovorn
BANGKOK, May 4 (Reuters) - Thai police are trying to find out if a Thai
toddler facing deportation from the United States in a case likened to the
Elian Gonzalez drama is a human smuggling victim.
Tabtim Kaewtaengian, a 22-year-old former masseuse who has remarried and is
now a housewife, denies an allegation by her mother that she may have sold
him to a human smuggling group.
Instead, Tabtim told Thailand's Independent Television she allowed an
Indonesian man to take her 2-year old son sightseeing - as he had done on
previous occasions - only to find out later he had turned up in the nited
States.
"I allowed him to take my son sightseeing but did not know he took my son
to United States," Tabtim said, adding that the first she knew of that was
when she got a call from U.S. immigration.
Tabtim showed the boy's Thai passport in the name of Phanupong Kraisi,
which gives his date of birth as June 19, 1997.
It was not known how long the boy had been apart from his mother. But a
local newspaper, Kao Sod (Fresh News), said he left Thailand on April 11
and Thai authorities said they were informed on April 19 that he had been
detained at Los Angeles airport.
The Thai Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the U.S. Immigration and
Naturalisation Service (INS) agreed to delay repatriation of the boy until
Thai police resolved whether he had been a victim of human smuggling.
They said the boy's mother refused to file charges against an Indonesian
now in a Bangkok airport detention centre awaiting deportation after he was
sent back from the United States.
INVESTIGATING CASE
"We are investigating the case, but it's going to be a little difficult to
pursue since the boy's mother declined to accuse the suspect," chief
investigator Police Colonel Visanu Muangpraesri told Reuters.
Tabtim's mother, Tongkham Kaewtaengian, said she had looked after Phanupong
since his father died. She said her daughter took him to Bangkok two months
ago and she believed she had sold him to a human smuggling gang.
"Tabtim used to say that if she sold the boy she would earn a huge amount
of money," she told reporters at her home in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand.
In Los Angeles, activist members of the Thai community said the boy, who
arrived with a passport under the false name Somsak Deema, needed
protection and invoked the name Elian Gonzalez in demanding that he not be
sent back.
Elian, 6, is the Cuban shipwrecked boy at the centre of a legal tussle
between his father who wants him back in Cuba and Miami relatives who want
to keep him in the United States.
The Thai boy, Phanupong, was detained at Los Angeles airport two weeks ago
after arriving with alleged members of an organised crime ring.
Members of the Thai community there said they believed he was used by
members of the crime ring as a "human prop" so they could pose as a family
and be less suspicious while travelling.
They said the ring was trafficking women into the United States, possibly
to work as prostitutes. They said the boy had been traumatised and unable
to sleep for several days.
A U.S. immigration spokeswoman said two people travelling with the boy were
deported, but had no information on any alleged criminal activities.
Besides the Indonesian, a mainland Chinese woman was also sent back to
Thailand, where she was fined for using false travel documents and released
on bail.
By Sutin Wannabovorn
BANGKOK, May 4 (Reuters) - Thai police are trying to find out if a Thai
toddler facing deportation from the United States in a case likened to the
Elian Gonzalez drama is a human smuggling victim.
Tabtim Kaewtaengian, a 22-year-old former masseuse who has remarried and is
now a housewife, denies an allegation by her mother that she may have sold
him to a human smuggling group.
Instead, Tabtim told Thailand's Independent Television she allowed an
Indonesian man to take her 2-year old son sightseeing - as he had done on
previous occasions - only to find out later he had turned up in the United
States.
"I allowed him to take my son sightseeing but did not know he took my son
to United States," Tabtim said, adding that the first she knew of that was
when she got a call from U.S. immigration.
Tabtim showed the boy's Thai passport in the name of Phanupong Kraisi,
which gives his date of birth as June 19, 1997.
It was not known how long the boy had been apart from his mother. But a
local newspaper, Kao Sod (Fresh News), said he left Thailand on April 11
and Thai authorities said they were informed on April 19 that he had been
detained at Los Angeles airport.
The Thai Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the U.S. Immigration and
Naturalisation Service (INS) agreed to delay repatriation of the boy until
Thai police resolved whether he had been a victim of human smuggling.
They said the boy's mother refused to file charges against an Indonesian
now in a Bangkok airport detention centre awaiting deportation after he was
sent back from the United States.
INVESTIGATING CASE
"We are investigating the case, but it's going to be a little difficult to
pursue since the boy's mother declined to accuse the suspect," chief
investigator Police Colonel Visanu Muangpraesri told Reuters.
Tabtim's mother, Tongkham Kaewtaengian, said she had looked after Phanupong
since his father died. She said her daughter took him to Bangkok two months
ago and she believed she had sold him to a human smuggling gang.
"Tabtim used to say that if she sold the boy she would earn a huge amount
of money," she told reporters at her home in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand.
In Los Angeles, activist members of the Thai community said the boy, who
arrived with a passport under the false name Somsak Deema, needed
protection and invoked the name Elian Gonzalez in demanding that he not be
sent back.
Elian, 6, is the Cuban shipwrecked boy at the centre of a legal tussle
between his father who wants him back in Cuba and Miami relatives who want
to keep him in the United States.
The Thai boy, Phanupong, was detained at Los Angeles airport two weeks ago
after arriving with alleged members of an organised crime ring.
Members of the Thai community there said they believed he was used by
members of the crime ring as a "human prop" so they could pose as a family
and be less suspicious while travelling.
They said the ring was trafficking women into the United States, possibly
to work as prostitutes. They said the boy had been traumatised and unable
to sleep for several days.
A U.S. immigration spokeswoman said two people travelling with the boy were
deported, but had no information on any alleged criminal activities.
Besides the Indonesian, a mainland Chinese woman was also sent back to
Thailand, where she was fined for using false travel documents and released
on bail.

REUTERS NEWS SERVICE


New Message Reply Date view Thread view Subject view Author view Other groups

This archive was generated by hypermail 2a22 : Wed May 10 2000 - 08:57:57 EDT