General News - Monday December 17, 2007
Heroin bust linked to electoral fraud
SUBIN KHEUNKAEW THEERAWAT KHAMTHITA
Fourteen kilogrammes of high-grade heroin smuggled into Chiang Rai was seized in Phrae yesterday, with the money from the sale of the drug allegedly going to be used in electoral fraud schemes. Two brothers, Pinyo and Vijit Thanakornsilp, were pulled over on the Den Chai-Uttaradit highway at a police-military checkpoint in Den Chai district. Police said they found 40 packs of high-grade heroin totalling 14 kilogrammes in their vehicle.
Police arrested the men, who allegedly confessed to having picked up the drugs from a trafficker in Chiang Saen district of Chiang Rai.
The heroin was to be delivered to customers at a farmer market in Pathum Thani.
Police investigators also seized 19,000 baht from the suspects and were tracing the origin of the heroin and trying to track down the gang distributing the drugs.
Authorities have set up roadblocks on highways linking Bangkok and the North to intercept and cut off supplies of drugs in the run-up to Sunday's general election.
Defence Minister Boonrawd Somtas said drug deliveries were expected to increase as the election approaches.
He said he has instructed that border patrols be stepped up to catch the smugglers.
Meanwhile, the search continued yesterday for missing kamnan Prasong Pongpanyayuen and businessman Taiching sae Lew, who disappeared in the Mekong river after a boat crash in Chiang Rai on Friday. The men are presumed drowned.
Mr Prasong has close ties with Yongyuth Tiyapairat, the deputy leader of the People Power party (PPP), who wields much political influence in Chiang Rai.
It was reported that some PPP supporters were suspicious of the cause of the boat crash, linking it to electioneering conflicts in the province.
Police have not established the cause of the collision, which involved a long-tail boat carrying Mr Prasong and Mr Taiching, and a larger passenger boat.
The two men were being shuttled back from Laos where Mr Prasong reportedly has interests in a hotel and casino project. Mr Taiching was his interpreter.
Surachai Thienchai, the head of Chiang Saen district police, denied reports that Mr Prasong was carrying up to 20 million baht in cash when he disappeared in the river.
It has been alleged that Mr Prasong was financing election campaigns in Chiang Rai, although the existence of the money has not been verified.
Pol Col Surachai said checks found Mr Prasong had about 300,000 baht in cash with him.
He said he believed there was a political motive behind the exaggerated amount of cash.
Pol Col Surachai, however, said relevant authorities were looking out for illegal cash entering the country from neighbouring countries before the general election.
Third Army commander Samrerng Sivadamrong, meanwhile, hit back at Mr Yongyuth's claim that soldiers have intimidated PPP candidates and its canvassers and tried to block the party's election rallies in Chiang Rai.
Lt-Gen Samrerng said security searches of houses did not focus only on PPP members, as has been alleged. In fact, soldiers had remained calm despite provocation by the party, the commander said.
Buasorn Prachamorn, a PPP party list candidate in zone 1, complained yesterday that a former Chiang Rai deputy governor had warned PPP canvassers to withdraw support from the party during a recent meeting which the deputy governor said was arranged at the request of the military.
Panthongtae and Pinthongta Shinawatra, the children of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, travelled to the North over the weekend reportedly to meet key figures of the PPP.
Mr Panthongtae was in Chiang Rai and his sister in Chiang Mai. Their trips were said to help the PPP boost its popularity.