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Commandos raid organized crime ring in southern Thailand

The challenges faced by Thai security forces in breaking up organized crime were in evidence last week when over 1,000 soldiers and police launched simultaneous raids on 16 locations in the south last week, but the influential figures they were seeking managed to elude capture. 
 
Led by Crime Suppression Division (CSD) acting commander Police Colonel Akaradej Pimolsri, the commandos seized large caches of weapons and said they had obtained leads about the whereabouts and criminal networks of the suspects.  The seven suspects, all local political figures in the southern province of Nakhon Sri Thammarat, fled shortly before the commando teams arrived.
 
As they are all well known, Akaradej said the noose is tightening and they would eventually be captured, and that he would soon start arresting several professional gunmen in the province.  He said the suspects controlled most criminal activities in the province and were involved in contract killings and supplying gunmen for hire.
 
Nakhon Sri Thammarat, on the eastern coast of the Thai peninsula, has sometimes been referred to as Thailand’s “gangster province,” known in some circles for its crime families and corruption.  In 2002, the province was one of several in the south that the government targeted for campaigns to crack down on organized crime. The Interior Minister at that time said local police were part of the problem, working for mafia-like figures rather than against them.
 
The current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha has vowed to root out corruption and corrupt officials.  He has replaced top police officials at the national level, and the police general who headed the Criminal Investigation Bureau was arrested earlier this year for running a criminal network allegedly involving theft, extortion and violent. 
 
The current raids were sparked by the February 22 killings near a school of four men, one of whom was the relative of a provincial councilor, which had all the hallmarks of gangland-style slayings. Police said the violence was part of a turf war between local mafia, or ‘influential’ figures, prompting Akaradej to vow to break up the criminal networks and launch a crackdown.
 
 “When they start raining bullets down on each other we have to step in and deal with them strictly,” he said.
 
Police General Pawin Pongsirin said that Nakhon Si Thammarat had a long record and high incidence of violent crime and the use of illegal weapons.  He said police would try to determine whether any of the seized arms had previously been used in crimes.  He vowed to get rid of Mafia-like figures in the province who resort to the use of war weapons.
 
See the original article at Thailand e-Focus

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