(Reuters) - Thailand arrested the suspected kingpin of a human trafficking network on Monday, the latest bust in a crackdown on people smuggling that has triggered a humanitarian crisis on the region's seas.
The foreign ministers of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia will meet in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday to discuss how to tackle trafficking, after the clampdown led criminals to abandon boats crammed with thousands of migrants rather than risk landing on Thai shores.
Boatloads of Bangladeshi migrants and Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar have arrived in the waters of Indonesia and Malaysia, and many thousands more migrants remain adrift.
Southeast Asian governments have shown little sign of a coordinated response to the crisis and have pushed some migrant boats back and forth across their maritime borders.
The Royal Thai Police said they suspected Patchuban Angchotipan, a former official in the provincial government of the southern Satun province, was the boss of a large human trafficking network.
"In Satun province he is high-level," said Thai national police chief General Somyot Poompanmuang. "He is the chief. He has many subordinates."
Patchuban, whose nickname is 'Kor Tong', has been charged with a range of offences including human trafficking, smuggling illegal migrant workers into Thailand, detention of others leading to bodily harm and holding people for ransom.
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A Rohingya child who recently arrived by boat has his picture taken for identification purposes at a shelter in Kuala Langsa, in Indonesia's Aceh Province, May 18, 2015. REUTERS/Roni Bintang[/caption]