Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Supercar crackdown looms; Bangkok raid nets prized wildlife; Transgender ID photos approved

– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

DSI tells luxury car owners to keep valid documents ready
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: People who own or possess 488 luxury cars, whose domestic prices start at Bt4 million each – mostly senior police and military officers, businesspeople and politicians – are required to produce relevant documents and get their vehicles ready for inspection, as their names are on a list released yesterday by the Department of Special Investigation.

Most of the expensive high-performance cars are, surprisingly, equipped with alternative fuel systems such as liquefied petroleum gas or natural gas for vehicles – a bureaucratic loophole exploited by importers to avoid mandatory exhaust-fume inspections. This would have cost the owners or possessors more than Bt120,000 for each vehicle, so that those vehicles could be resold to buyers with minimal risk of being detected later by police or the registrars of vehicles.

DSI director-general Tharit Pengdit said inspection of documents would begin on June 17, and inspection of the vehicles the week after.

“Owners volunteering to have their cars checked can explain their intent to the DSI now, but those hesitant will be summoned by DSI agents to get their cars inspected, starting from June 24,” he added. Some 100 suspiciously registered vehicles in DSI custody, apprehended after a series of raids nationwide, will undergo inspections soon, he said.

On the DSI list, prominent owners or possessors include former National Police chief Sant Sarutanond, crocodil- farm owner Uthane Yangpraphakorn, former deputy House Speaker Apiwan Wiriyachai, renowned preacher monk Phra Khru Palad Sitthiwat, retired police general Khate Nimsomboon and Royal Irrigation Department director-general Lertwiroj Kowatthana.

Tax-evading luxury cars probably cost the country more than Bt20 billion in lost revenue, according to the DSI.

DSI chief Tharit made the estimate based on the assumption that more than 8,000 luxury vehicles in the country had been or were about to be registered illegally.

A total of 5,834 registered luxury cars were suspected of getting their papers through a tax-evasion process. Some 3,000 others were in the process of receiving registration papers through a system officials said was illegal.

Major Sukchart Sasomsap reported himself to the DSI, after a licence plate number that he once owned was linked to an alleged tax-evading vehicle.

Sukchart is a son of Labour Minister Phadermchai Sasomsap.

A DSI source earlier suggested the tax-evading scheme involved politicians or persons with political connections.

Many luxury cars were smuggled into the country, but were later registered under claims they were imported as auto parts and re-assembled later.

Tharit said Thailand has no facility to reassemble super cars. Therefore, super cars that have been registered as reassembled in Thailand must have used false documents.

Animals, birds seized in Bangkok wildlife raids
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Bangkok police yesterday morning cracked down on an alleged wildlife trade source in Bangkok’s Khlong Sam Wa district and seized hundreds of wild birds and animals.

They included 14 white lions, (panthera leo), four civets, one leopard cat, two hornbills, and one slow loris, as well as 23 meerkats, 12 peacocks, and 17 marmosets.

The owner of the house on 2 rai (3,200 square metres), Montri Boonphrom-on, 41, claimed the animals were legally imported, mostly from South Africa.

After the investigation into an alleged unauthorised wildlife-trading house, Metropolitan Police Bureau 3 joined with Natural Resources and Environment Ministry officials to search the house in Soi Hathairat 39.

They apprehended caretakers Rungroj Wattanapongsawat, 34, and Usanee Saejiam, 27, and some Myanmar workers and seized the 200-300 animals and birds and some stuffed animals.

Montri later produced import and purchase papers to explain to officials that the animals – most of which he allegedly imported for breeding and selling – underwent legal procedures. He said he had a permit from CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) to import them and there were actually 22 lions.

He claimed that six lions were his and the rest were Mitraparp Zoo’s. The zoo, which took two lions away, asked him to take care of the 14 remaining lions. He said a lion cost Bt200,000 to buy and import.

Metropolitan Police Bureau 3 deputy chief Pol Colonel Ek Ekkasart said possession of a leopard cat, hornbill, civet or slow loris was illegal and Montri would certainly face legal action.

Police will check Montri’s claim of having the proper import papers for other animals, but they all would be seized first pending the probe. Ek also revealed that Montri had been arrested for wildlife trading four years ago and received a one-year suspended jail term.

Officials initially charged Montri and Runroj with having wild animals in their possession without permission, and conspiring to hide and trade wild animals as well as stuffed carcasses.

Some animals were sent to Ratchaburi’s wildlife nursing facility and the rest to Chon Buri’s Bang Phra Animal Centre.

Tax breaks eyed for Deep South strife victims
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Companies and people affected by the country’s political violence and the unrest in the deep South would be eligible for tax exemptions under a draft law approved by the Cabinet yesterday.

Government spokesman Teerat Ratanasevi said the Finance Ministry proposed the draft law to cushion the adverse impact of the conflicts on the victims.

“Those who have received remedial actions from the government will be eligible,” Teerat said.

He said the draft decree would be forwarded to the Council of State for further review.

If the decree sails through, it will take effect retroactively from January 1 last year.

According to the draft decree, eligible people and companies would fall into two groups. The first would comprise people who suffered from political unrest between January 1, 2005 and May 31, 2010. The second would comprise people affected by the ongoing unrest in the Deep South.

Ekkayuth’s driver found in south
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Police have found the driver of businessman and government critic Ekkayuth Anchanbutr who has been missing since last week, national police chief Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew said Monday.

The man, Santiparp Pengduang, was found in the southern province of Phatthalung. The police chief declined to say whether Santiparp was involved with the disappearance of Ekkayuth, or whether Ekkayuth was safe, saying it is under investigation.

The police in questioning the driver are looking at two possible motives: personal and business conflicts, Adul said.

Ekkayuth’s lawyer Suwat Apaipak said he doubted whether Ekkayuth’s disappearance was related to the fact that he had recently fired three employees from his company even though one of them is underst

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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