Armed Karen border guards have released 35 Thai tourists who were detained at a market in Burma on Saturday following negotiations.
A local Border Guard Force (BGF) arrested the tourists at a fresh market opposite the Three Pagodas Pass on Saturday morning in Payathonzu village, next to Kanchanaburi’s Sangkhla Buri district.
The detainment was a stated response to a sting operation conducted by Thailand’s AntiHuman Trafficking Division police to arrest underage sex workers in Payathonzu on Wednesday, say officials.
The negotiations held between the police, military officers and local officials took around 30 minutes before the people were released.
The tourists were permitted to return home safely to Thailand after the BGF agreed to their release, according to Thai 9th Infantry Regiment Chief Colonel Banyong Thongnuam.
He noted that the BGF’s aim was only to detain — not arrest — the tourists to make the Thai police reassess their arrest of the sex workers earlier that week. The sting operation involved Thai officers who posed as customers in Payathonzu, leading to the arrest of six sex workers in the village.
The officers later released two women as they were over 20 years old. The rest were found to be underage, between 16 and 17 years old.
The four girls and two Burmese nationals who brought them to the officers were taken to Bangkok to be investigated, say sources.
Officers imposed a temporary ban on travel to Payathonzu, fearing further retaliation from the BGF.
However, tourists are now allowed to travel through the Three Pagodas Pass as usual. It has been the main land route into western Thailand since ancient times.
This story was originally published by the Bangkok Post here.