Over 30 guns seized at Tah Chat Chai checkpoint

TAH CHAT CHAI: Beefed up security at the Tah Chat Chai road checkpoint in Mai Khao has resulted in the seizure of more than 30 firearms in under two months and police are planning to invest a further 26 million baht to curb gun smuggling onto the island, according to the Manager online news service.

Last Friday at Phuket City Police Station, Phuket Governor Preecha Ruangjan, Phuket Provincial Police Commander Apirak Hongthong and Tah Chat Chai Police Superintendent Sakchai Limcharoen presented a wide assortment of seized firearms to the media including 9mm, 11mm. .357 magnum and .38 caliber weapons, a “glock” and even homemade firearms.

Gov Preecha told the press that stepped up security at the checkpoint had resulted in the seizure of 32 firearms being smuggled onto the island since the operation began in October, when control of the checkpoint passed from Region 8 Police to Phuket Provincial Police.

The drive to reduce the number of firearms being driven onto the island over the Thepkrasattri Bridge was to maintain Phuket’s image as a safe tourist destination, he was quoted as saying.

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Potential visitors could be frightened away if the island develops a reputation as a wild and lawless country outpost, the report read.

Lt Gen Apirak told the press that while the number of guns intercepted seems large, it is in fact probably only a small fraction of the flow of firearms onto Phuket from the mainland.

For this reason, police will invest 26 million baht to further enhance security at the checkpoint. The funds will be used to purchase more advanced technology to detect weapons and other types of contraband.

Phuket will also see a massive expansion in the number of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras, Lt Gen Apirak was quoted as saying.

The 48 police CCTV cameras now in place on the island are of very limited value in the fight against crime as some units are inoperable, while others have problems playing back the images they record, he admitted.

The 48 CCTV cameras installed under a 16-million-baht contract with telecommunications provider CAT Telecom Public Company Ltd were announced as fully operational in February 2007.

The network consists of sixteen cameras each in three locales popular with tourists: Phuket City, Patong and Karon.

Authorities will increase the number of CCTV cameras on the island to 500 in order to better meet security needs, he was quoted as saying.

There were no details in the report about who would actually pay for the cameras or when they would be installed. However, several local administrative bodies have announced plans to add large numbers of CCTV cameras in areas under their jurisdictions.

In another interesting development, Lt Gen Apirak was quoted as saying that he had hoped to declare Phuket as a “crime free zone” during this high season. Although the plan has been postponed because of the number of criminal cases that have occurred, he still hopes to declare Phuket as a crime free province in the near future in order to maintain tourist confidence in the island.

Phuket News
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