CHIANG RAI – An arrest warrant was issued on Thursday for a Chinese woman, identified only as Mulan, who police believe is behind one of the largest transnational gangs smuggling precious wood out of Thailand to be sold overseas.
The warrant was issued after she was linked to a huge quantity of Siamese rosewood, Burma padauk (Pterocarpus macrocarpus) and other types of wood seized on Thursday in a raid on a workshop in Surin’s Kap Choeng district, said Chiwaphap Chiwatham, director of the Royal Forest Department (RFD)’s Forest Protection and Fire Control Bureau and head of a special team called Phayak Phrai (wild tigers).
The raid in the northeastern province was jointly carried out by the team, the Internal Security Operations Command and other local government officials. Four Thai suspects and one unidentified Chinese financier were detained in the raid and information gleaned from them pointed to Ms Mulan’s involvement, Mr Chiwaphap said.
Ms Mulan is a Chinese national who has lived in Thailand for about 10 years and has close ties with a former senior air force officer, according to Atthaphon Charoenchansa, deputy director-general of the RFD. The officer was linked to a wood warehouse raided previously in Samut Prakan’s Muang district, he said.
A total of 412 logs of precious wood seized during that raid had a street value of more than 36 million baht, said Mr Atthaphon. Police were gathering more information to back a request for an arrest warrant for the former air force officer, he said.
Moves against the network linked to Ms Mulan have been mounted for years and police have connected the network to recent seizures, including one in Chiang Rai’s Chiang Saen district, which netted an enormous quantity of illegal wood. Two suspects arrested in this raid named Ms Mulan as the owner of the wood, said Mr Chiwaphap.
Ms Mulan was also found to have a Thai name, Chalida Suphanthamat, leading officials to suspect she had illegally obtained an ID card through impersonating a woman in Surin, said Mr Atthaphon.