SURAT THANI – Pol Maj Gen Apichart Boonsrirot, chief of Surat Thani police has told a press briefing that an air force officer has been arrested after 600,000 speed pills and 6kg of crystal methamphetamine worth over 80 million baht were found hidden inside his pickup truck which crashed into a tree in Tha Chana district on Thursday evening.
Flight Lt Thiwa Saimoon, 50, attached to the Weapon Production Centre in Lop Buri, was apprehended after the illicit drugs and other items were found in his brand new pickup truck, said Pol Col Thaksin Siripokkhapat, chief of Tha Chana police during a media conference on Friday.
The vehicle rammed into a tree at a road divider on Highway 41 at Ban Dan Sua village in Tha Chana district at around 4pm on Thursday, he said.
The force of the crash injured the driver. When rescue workers were about to take him to a hospital, he allegedly told them he was a military officer and there were weapons and valuable items in the vehicle. Tha Chana police later found four fertilizer sacks inside the truck, raising their suspicion. They opened the sacks and found the drugs inside.
Besides the vehicle, the seized items included 600,000 methamphetamine pills, 6kg of crystal methamphetamine, five firearms, 88 rounds of ammunition, 14 license plates, seven mobile phones, some gold ornaments and watches.
He admitted that he had been hired by a Myanmar man identified only as Boy for 300,000 baht to smuggle the drugs from Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district to the South, said Pol Maj Gen Apichart Boonsrirot, chief of Surat Thani police.
The officer allegedly told police he had received an advance payment of 100,000 baht and left Mae Sai on Oct 16. He claimed he did not know the location where he was supposed to deliver the drugs and refused to implicate anyone in the drug smuggling ring.
“But we found the suspect had smuggled the drugs at least six times. As a military officer, he could drive past road checkpoints [without being searched]. The drug smuggling was well-planned since there were several license plates inside the vehicle,’’ said Pol Maj Gen Apichart.
Peera Kanchanapong, director of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board’s Region 8 office, said authorities were investigating what major drug network Flt Lt Thiwa worked for.
Since he refused to implicate anyone, investigators would check drug smuggling activities to find links to the leader of the network.
“We have to admit that the seizure of illicit drugs and the arrests of suspects are quite difficult nowadays as drug traffickers are well prepared for drug suppression operations. This prompts them to use various methods to avoid being caught,’’ said Mr Peera.
Authorities believe the seized drugs were destined for a neighboring country where they fetch higher prices.
Some 600,000 speed pills and 6kg of crystal meths, weapons and other items seized from a pickup truck of an air force officer are put on display during a media briefing in Surat Thani on Friday.
By Nujaree Raekrun