Police bust ya bah ring

KATHU: On a night of rain, gunfights and car chases, a Phuket Provincial Police drug suppression unit smashed a major ya bah (methamphetamine) ring on June 19, arresting five people and seizing 1,384 ya bah pills and 115,000 baht in cash as evidence in the case.

The operation started with a routine drug bust on June 18 in front of Rungtawee Mansion in Kathu, where Maj Chalermchai Hernsawat of the Phuket City Police and his team arrested Rungsan Pongtrakul for possession of two ya bah pills.

Upon questioning, Rungsan named his supplier as Sayam Jamjantra. Undercover police arranged to buy 20 ya bah pills the following day from Sayam on Soi Irawadee Ketho, in Tambon Kathu.

As Sayam was being placed under arrest, police noticed a red tuk-tuk nearby making a hasty retreat

from the scene. In heavy rains, a patrol car gave chase. The driver of the tuk-tuk fired two shots at the patrol car, the occupants of which returned fire.

Fortunately all the shots missed and there were no bystanders along the road at the time because of the rain, Maj Chalermchai said.

The tuk-tuk driver managed to evade police momentarily, but his vehicle was later spotted parked in front of Sritrang Romyen dormitory. Once spotted by police, the man tried to flee on foot by scaling a wall and running across a rooftop.

The rooftop gave way and the man came crashing to the floor of the house, much to the surprise of its occupants. Saying he was in a hurry, the man foolishly offered them his Thai ID card as collateral, and promised to return the next day to repair the damage.

The man did manage to escape, but the family turned over the ID card to police, who identified the man as Pornchai Limpanich, who was still at-large as this edition went to press.

Already in custody, Sayam identified his supplier as Ketchakart “Kim” Kitpunwong, a resident of SB Park Mansion on Soi Thida. Police found the man in the parking lot of the apartment complex, where they searched his body and uncovered a fully-loaded Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol and 100,000 baht in cash. A search of his room uncovered five bags of ya bah, each containing 200 pills.

In what police consider a coincidence, the alleged leader of the drug ring, also a resident of SB Mansion, happened to pull his car into the parking lot while police were still there.

The man, later identified as Suwit Kaewnit, rammed the patrol truck police used to block the exit. Officers then shot out one of his tires and eventually took him into custody. A body search uncovered 200 ya bah pills, 15,000 baht in cash and an address book containing a list of customers.

A initial search of Suwit’s room uncovered a .32- automatic pistol with seven rounds of ammunition, aluminum foil, packs of drinking straws and other equipment commonly used to package ya bah .

Police also took into custody Suwit’s roommate Noppateep Petrak, whom they suspect of being a drug user.

A more thorough search a few days later uncovered 164 more ya bah pills in a bag taped underneath the television set.

Maj Chalermchai said the gang members used rented cars to drive to Bangkok, where they bought the drugs in lots of 5,000 to 10,000 pills per trip. Once in Phuket, they could resell the drugs at 500 baht each, he added.

The the suspects were presented at a press conference at Phuket City Police Station on June 20. All were then remanded in custody at Phuket City Police Station except Sayam, who is being held at Tung Tong Police Station.

“The charges will vary from person to person; some will only be charged with using ya bah while others face charges for its sale and distribution as well as weapons charges,” he said.

Such drug rings exist in many parts of the island and police will continue to investigate, said Maj Chalermchai.

He specified the Bang Khanoon and Nai Yang areas in Thalang as well as Tambon Sakoo in Muang District as areas of particular concern.

Phuket News

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