SYDNEY (Reuters) - Thailand's former chief police investigator into human trafficking said on Thursday he is seeking political asylum in Australia, saying he fears for his life if he go home.
Former Major General Paween Pongsirin arrived in Melbourne a few days ago on a tourist visa and said he planned to seek political refuge, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
"There must be some place, some safe place for me," he said in an interview with the broadcaster. "I came here because Australia is a safe place."
Paween quit the police in November saying an order to transfer him to Thailand's south would expose him to revenge by members of trafficking syndicates still at large.
National police chief Jakthip Chaijinda said at the time Paween could have asked for protection but chose to resign instead.[ID:L4N0XS2SP]
"We issued 153 warrants across all areas and that included government officials ... I had to do just my duty, not to think of danger or trouble, but now I realize how dangerous it was," Paween said.
Thailand has indicted 88 people suspected of involvement in human trafficking since launching a nationwide investigation into gangs following the discovery in May of 30 bodies in graves buried near the Thailand-Malaysian border, which prompted an international outcry.
"He was brought in as a hard-nosed experienced investigator, someone who has a reputation for being incorruptible," Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch Asia told the ABC.
"He now feels it is no longer safe to stay in Thailand."
Australian government officials were not immediately available to comment on whether Paween had applied for asylum.
(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Robert Birsel)