Despite the debunking of the grotesque and sensational claims made by the young Thai woman by senior Thai and Cambodian police officers, there remains the global problem of human organ trafficking which exists alongside human trafficking worldwide and has been confirmed by in-depth studies by both the United Nations and the European Union.

On Friday evening, senior Thai police officer, Police Lieutenant General Surachate Hakparn flanked by a top-ranking officer of the Cambodian Police, revealed that sensational claims made on March 9th last by a 25-year-old Thai woman that she had been subjected to a blood harvesting ordeal under duress amid fears that she was being prepared for an organ harvesting operation, were nothing but a fabrication by the woman as she sought to manipulate both the Cambodian and Thai police forces into effecting her rescue and delivery from the hands of criminal elements in Cambodia even though Police Lieutenant General Surachate who had initially met the woman on arrival back in Thailand, told reporters on Friday that, all along, she had been working for a scammer gang in Poipet, Cambodia of her own volition. The 25-year-old is now facing criminal charges in Thailand for making a false report to the police. 

Scene from the press conference yesterday in which senior Thai police including Police Lieutenant General Surachate Hakparn, flanked by a high ranking officer with the Cambodian Police, revealed that an investigation into the sensational claims made by a Thai woman on her return from Cambodia on Wednesday, March 9th last, were entirely false and created by the woman and her boyfriend to elicit the cooperation of authorities in both kingdoms and a quick rescue from criminal elements in Cambodia where the woman had travelled to in early 2021 to work on a voluntary basis.

A Thai woman who claimed to have been the victim of a brutal Chinese organ trafficking gang in Cambodia has admitted to a special police investigation into the matter that her story was a fabrication driven initially by her boyfriend and fears that she may not have been able to return to Thailand after crossing over into Cambodia in early 2021.

The revelations came at a press conference on Friday evening where Thai police including Police Lieutenant General Surachate Hakparn who initially met the woman at the centre of the controversy last week after she crossed over from Cambodia at Aranyaprathet in Sak Kaeo province on Wednesday Match 9th with seven other Thais described as victims of human trafficking.

Team including Cambodian police got to the bottom of the sensational claims this week on orders from National Police Chief General Suwat Jang­yod­suk

Lieutenant General Surachate was joined on Friday by Deputy National Police Commissioner General Roy Ingkapairote and Police Major General Wanveera Som, an Assistant Commissioner with the Cambodian Police who this week worked closely with his Thai counterparts in getting to the bottom of the claims.

Thai woman’s claims that she was targeted for organ harvesting being probed in Cambodia by police

The senior Thai police officer told the media that due to the brutality of the ordeal described by the Thai woman and the exposure to the public of the story, Police Commissioner GeneralSuwat Jang­yod­suk ordered a full investigation to get to the bottom of the claims.

Cambodian Police investigating the latest claims by the Thai woman who returned this week, one senior officer has already described them as ‘baseless’

Last weekend, when questioned in Phnom Penh about the story featured on the Thai Examiner on March 12th detailing the woman’s claims and that of a Chinese national whose story had been reported as already dismissed by senior Cambodian police officers, a spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chum Sounry, said the claims made by the woman had already been described as baseless by police in Sihanoukville.

Foreign Affairs spokesman in Phnom Penh told reporters there is no organ trafficking in Cambodia

Mr Sounry also insisted to reporters that there was no human organ trafficking in Cambodia.

On Friday, General Surachate, also known in Thailand affectionately as ‘Big Joke’, revealed the identity of the Thai woman at the centre of the controversy who was initially presented as Ms Bee.

She was 25-year-old Areeya Komkratok who, he said, had crossed over from Thailand to Cambodia to the casino city of Poipet near the Thai border in early 2021 to seek work there.

It is understood that the woman’s boyfriend initially concocted the story and embellished it with a fake Facebook account and contrived chat messages purportedly that of a Thai woman who worked in a restaurant in Sihanoukville.

The top policeman revealed that later Ms Areeya had created a new story that she was moved from location to location while men with electric prods had taken blood forcefully from her.

She appealed to be rescued before she was operated on and had her organs harvested.

False story of Chinese gangs and human trafficking began with the Thai woman’s boyfriend to obtain special police consideration in order to return home

On Friday, Police Lieutenant General Surachate said that even while making these claims to provoke a police rescue mission, the Thai woman was still working for a gang in Poipet actively engaged in the online deception of Thai people within the kingdom at home.

Despite being confronted with the truth, however, he said on Friday that Ms Arreya still insisted she was motivated by fear of a real Chinese gang who had threatened her if she attempted to return to Thailand.

She said the story was created to spur her quick rescue by police authorities from the clutches of the gang after she had heard of a similar story by word of mouth.

25-year-old woman facing criminal charges and up to 3 years in jail for her false report to police

He said the young woman was facing a charge of making a false report to an investigating officer which is a criminal offence carrying a jail term of up to three years on conviction and a fine of not more than ฿6,000.

The prosecution of the woman will be processed by police at Aranyaprathet Police Station in Sa Kaeo Province.

Police Lieutenant General Surachate said the woman’s story and widespread media coverage of it had created panic among both Thai nationals and foreigners.

He indicated that police would, in future, be looking at verification of data linked to potential human trafficking victims.

Up to 300 of 700 Thai returnees have been found to have been involved in illegal activity in Cambodia and may be charged in Thailand according to statutes

The senior officer who is deputy director of a special human trafficking task force within the Royal Thai Police praised the cooperation between Thai police and their Cambodian counterparts not just on this case but also in helping to assist up to 700 Thai people who had entered Cambodia illegally and were subsequently returned home.

He disclosed that interviews had revealed that 400 were victims of human trafficking while 300 were involved in criminal activity and would be prosecuted according to the law.

Thai police and Cambodian authorities would also be proceeding with a joint operation or campaign to return an estimated 3,000 Thai nationals still living within the kingdom to the east illegally, he said.

The top Cambodian police officer said his force had helped the young Thai woman and responded to her appeals for help to avoid being thought negligent

Police Major General Wanveera told the media on Friday that he had been assigned by authorities in Cambodia to work closely with Thai police on the question of human trafficking over the last two years.

He said that Cambodian police, on hearing the reports relating to Ms Areeya, had immediately rushed to help and assist the Thai woman even though her claims had led to a serious misunderstanding among the public.

He said the rapid response from the Cambodian police was necessary so that officials in Thailand did not think his police force was neglectful of the situation regardless of what has now emerged.

Ambassador in Phnom Penh satisfied with support from officials and police in Cambodia to protect Thais

Afterwards, Cambodian police had worked with the Royal Thai Police to establish the real facts of the matter and had established that Ms Areeya had created a fabricated story to mislead authorities. 

He said he was satisfied that both police forces have now established the facts of the matter.

Not all human organ trafficking claims are baseless. Such illegal activity does exist worldwide wherever there are vulnerable people to be exploited.

Despite this, it would be wrong to conclude that the trafficking of people for human organ harvesting is a myth or not a real issue.

The extent of the trade globally and the facts surrounding it have been the subject of in-depth studies by both the United Nations and the European Union in the last decade.

Grotesque, sensational nature of these claims make them less credible and the serious issue of human trafficking linked with organ harvesting a dark one

In 2015, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna published a detailed report on the subject entitled Trafficking in Persons for the Purpose of Organ Removal.

The main countries associated with the trade which often involves paying small amounts to organ donors or the most vulnerable in society who sell their organs are China, Pakistan, Egypt, Colombia and the Philippines.

One in ten human transplants come from human organ trafficking according to a key 2015 UN report

The UN estimates that at least ten per cent of all organ transplants are generated through human organ trafficking in one form or another and that such organs are sold at inflated prices through middlemen and are often linked with reputable medical centres throughout the world.

In May 2017, two people were arrested by Cambodian police for trafficking organs after a year-long investigation by police in Phnom Penh working within the Anti-Trafficking Office.

34-year-old Lach Hong Meng and 38-year-old Heng Lat were arrested for acting as brokers for victims who had offered one of their kidneys for $5,800 each.

The 2015 UN report detailed, at length, the misleading information and false pretexts presented to organ donors in this grey underworld concerning such transactions.

2017 arrests after Cambodians were trafficked to India

The victims were flown to India where transplant operations were performed while forged documents were used to make the transplants look regular and that the organs had come from genuine sources.

At the time, a regional adviser to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime pointed out that it was ‘important to note that organ trafficking and human trafficking for organ removal are different but frequently confused’.

In December 2020, a Reuters report quoted the Global Slavery Index produced by Australian NGO, the Walk Free Foundation in Western Australia, which campaigns against human slavery and trafficking around the world.

It found there were over 260,000 Cambodian nationals from among a population of 16 million living in servitude including those trapped in modern slavery through debt bondage and other forms of exploitation.

Fighting human trafficking in Cambodia at source

This came as the Cambodian government launched a programme within schools to educate students about the insidious nature and mechanisms of human trafficking including sex slavery, forced marriage and forced labour linked with debt bondage or financial inducements.

The Deputy Chief of Cambodia’s counter-trafficking agency, the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT), Mr Chou Bun Eng said the courses had been developed with the Education Ministry to help prevent the problem at the source.

‘Children need to know specifics: What are the tricks of the brokers? What is forced marriage? What is the reality of the situation in China, Thailand or Vietnam?’ he explained. ‘There are always new strains of trafficking, but if we can teach children these things, they will be much safer.’

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