Thai authorities say they have arrested a man who they say is a human smuggler linked to the sailing of the MV Sun Sea, the rickety boat that transported 492 Tamil migrants to British Columbia last year.
Thailand's immigration police arrested Nadesan Jeeyananthan, 48, and seven other people accused of involvement in a human-smuggling ring during a series of raids last Sunday.
The arrest marks the first claim of headway by police in the investigation into the human-smuggling operation that raised fears - still unconfirmed - that former Tamil Tiger militants were among the migrants seeking a new home in Canada. The Harper government responded with a promise to crack down on human smuggling.
Mr. Jeeyananthan is believed to have been involved in the Sun Sea operation, but is not the mastermind behind it, according to Canadian officials who spoke on condition they not be named. The officials said he is alleged to have been behind a major-human smuggling operation that has tried to send migrants to Canada in other ships.
Another ship, the Ocean Lady, brought 79 Tamils to Canada in October, 2009.
Thailand, a country that is relatively easy to enter, has become a transit point for migrant-smuggling operations to Australia, Canada, and elsewhere. Since the Sun Sea, Canada has sent police and intelligence officers to assist Thai authorities in investigations.
Sources said a half-dozen RCMP officers and one intelligence officer are now in Thailand, but Canadian officials would not say what role, if any, they had in the arrests.
All 492 Tamil migrants were detained under immigration laws last August, but 309 have since been ordered released - though some remain in custody as the federal government fights to keep them in detention.