The police chiefs of both Rayong and Chonburi were removed this week after the National Police Commissioner, General Suwat Jangyodsuk, sent a fact-finding mission to Rayong and public health officials confirmed a well-known gambling den in the Bang Lamung area of Pattaya. A raid in Bangkok’s Laksi district on Monday by the Central Investigation Bureau saw another gambling den closed and 89 people arrested while four senior police officers in Rayong and six in Bangkok have been transferred as disciplinary investigations get underway.
Thailand’s National Police Chief, this week, launched a severe crackdown on illegal gambling dens in Rayong, Chonburi and Bangkok as the Covid virus turned both provinces into red zones for the disease and saw a 45-year-old security guard at one of the gambling premises, who tested positive only last Sunday, die on his way to hospital on Monday with breathing difficulties to become Thailand’s 61st Covid 19 victim. On Friday, there were two more deaths bringing the toll to 63. However, constitutional activist Srisuwan Chanya insisted, in recent days, that there were still more gambling dens in Rayong that have just closed during the current lockdown to avoid the heat from authorities.
As Thailand continues to report surging local infections, the National Police Chief General Suwat Jangyodsuk, has launched an all-out crackdown on illegal gambling operations believed to be at the heart of the recent outbreak in Rayong and Chonburi provinces.
In the last week, the provinces of Rayong and Chonburi became Covid-19 red zones due to outbreaks at gambling dens in both provinces which have now seen their respective police chiefs removed from duty by the national police commissioner in Bangkok.
279 cases announced on New Year’s Day
Thailand reported 279 cases on New Year’s Day with two further deaths, a 44-year-old man who contracted the deadly disease at a Bangkok restaurant on December 20th and an elderly woman who had just arrived illegally into Thailand from Myanmar.
The situation is disturbing with an intercity bus drive on a Chiang Mai to Rayong route testing positive and fears expressed by Covid 19 Situation Administration officials over the potential effect of the New Year’s holiday period when many Thais travel nationwide to be with family.
Officials now say that the situation will not be brought under control, even in the best-case scenario, until mid-February.
The disease outbreak or wave has already spread to 45 provinces and detected cases are becoming increasingly difficult for authorities to track.
Four Rayong senior police officers transferred to inactive posts as gambling den crackdown continues
Four senior officers in Rayong have also been removed from duty and have been placed under investigation.
These are Police Lieutenant Colonel Kiattiphong Kromkhunthod, the Superintendent of the Crime Suppression section, Police Lieutenant Colonel Kosol Kerdmanee, a superintendent with the investigation unit, Police Lieutenant Colonel Khamphan Kwanthong, an inspector with the investigation unit and Police Colonel Thana Wisetchai, Inspector with the Crime Suppression section.
Raid in Bangkok, 89 arrested
On Monday night, the crackdown spread to Bangkok where the Central Investigation Bureau led a raid on an illegal gambling den in the Laksi area of the city.
This saw 89 people arrested including 17 foreigners, among them nationals from Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos. Some were staff members at the den.
Following this raid, six top police officials in Bangkok were moved to inactive posts.
These included the Commissioner for Metropolitan Police Division 2, Police Major General Pattana Phetsayanawin and the Station Chief at Thung Song Hong, Police Colonel Kritsphon Phetsotsin.
Four other senior officers were implicated and moved following the Soi Chaengwattana 14 raid led by the CIB commissioner, Police Lieutenant General Torsak Sukvimol.
These were Deputy Police Station Chiefs at Thung Song Hong, Police Lieutenant Colonel Surin Phurit and Police Lieutenant Colonel Thanit Bunmaen as well as Police Major Natthaphong Rongkokoet, the station’s top investigator and Police Major Kittiphot Inchan, the Head of the Crime Suppression Unit.
45-year-old security guard, at Rayong gambling den, tests positive on Sunday, dies on Monday after he stopped breathing during a frantic dash to hospital
The severity and danger of the situation can be seen from the case of a security guard at the Rayong den which sparked the current crackdown.
The man, who suffered from heart disease and diabetes, was tested and confirmed with the disease on Sunday last but, on Monday, developed severe breathing problems.
A frantic friend tried to bring him urgently to Rayong Hospital but the 45-year-old stopped breathing on the way to the medical facility and was pronounced dead by doctors on arrival.
He became the 61st victim of the Covid 19 virus in Thailand and the first death from the disease since September 18th last when a retired Thai official who had just returned from the UK, died while in quarantine.
Before the 60th death, the last death was in June 2020 at the end of the first wave of infection.
Chonburi police chief removed on Wednesday by the national police commissioner over gambling den
On Wednesday, National Police Commissioner Police General Suwat Jangyodsuk removed Police Major General Prakarn Prachong from his post as Chief of Chonburi police after a report from a provincial health office requested local residents who had visited a gambling den in the Bang Lamung area of Pattaya as well as the more notorious gambling centre in Rayong, to come forward.
The gambling den in Rayong, which is at the centre of the outbreak in the Eastern provinces, was situated near the bus terminal in the city centre there.
‘Super spreader’ at Rayong gambling den at the heart one of the largest and severest clusters
By Monday, the national police boss had removed Police Major General Paphatdet Ketphan from his role as Rayong’s police chief after health officials traced the ‘super spreader’ at the heart of that province’s severe outbreak to the gambling establishment in the city.
Initially, the local police chief had referred to the gambling den as a short term set up in a warehouse but a fact-finding mission was established by General Suwat to investigate locally.
This was led by the Chief of the Inspector General’s Office, Visanu Prasattongosoth.
Police investigation refutes the suggestion that the gambling den was temporary or in a warehouse
This followed confirmation by the Governor of Rayong, Mr Channa Ieamsang, that the outbreak was linked to an illegal gambling den and a response by the former police chief that such establishments did not exist in Rayong on a permanent basis.
Police General Visanu reported back that the gambling premises had been in operation for at least a month based on reports related to the current outbreak and stated categorically that it was not located in an empty warehouse.
The damning report by the fact-finding expedition, sent from Bangkok, led to the removal of the police chief and senior officers.
The police chief of Chonburi and Rayong have been transferred to the national police operations centre in Bangkok while the four senior officers in Rayong were transferred to the provincial operations centre.
It is being reported that investigations into the situation are continuing and that further disciplinary action may ensue for dereliction of duty.
Activist claims that there are more gambling dens in Rayong that have just closed to avoid the heat for now
However, even with robust and decisive action from the top in Bangkok, constitutional activist, Srisuwan Chanya, known for his current complaint to the Election Commission about the Pheu Thai Party and the Progressive Movement, has come forward to warn that there are still quite a few other gambling dens situated in Rayong.
Mr Srisuwan, who is the secretary-general of the Thai Constitutional Protection Organisation Association, revealed that he has intelligence from a former senior police officer in Rayong to suggest that there are several other establishments. He said that they closed temporarily until the current heat cools down.
The activist suggested that some of them were linked to local politicians and people of influence and warned that many were also linked to foreigners from Cambodia and Laos.
Mr Srisuwan said that such establishments pose a danger to the Thai public. He insisted they should be detected and closed permanently.