TRANG: The fugitive ex-policeman wanted in connection with the murders of Prasert and Thavorn Trairat, the parents of Thepkrasattri Mayor Prasong Trairat, was killed by police in Trang early this morning after a high-speed chase during which a grenade was thrown, followed by a 12-hour manhunt in a forest and a final gun battle. Police, who have been searching for more than a year for former Pol Sgt Maj Chalaw Ramduang, had a lucky break when he was identified as the hitman in another murder in his home province of Phatthalung on Tuesday. Knowing that he had formerly served at the Sikow District Police Station in Trang, and reasoning that he might feel at home there, police kept a lookout for him and spotted him early yesterday evening in a car with four other people, one of them a woman. Two police pickup trucks carrying 10 officers chased the car for 30 kilometers, during which Chalaw dropped a grenade in front of his pursuers, peppering the second pickup with shrapnel but failing to stop it. Chalaw and his companions also fired at the police with handguns and an M-16 semi-automatic rifle, but also without effect. Eventually Chalaw and his confederates stopped the car and ran into a nearby forest, each in a different direction. Some 100 police descended on the forest to find the fugitives. At 5:30 this morning, Chalaw was finally found and a gun battle ensued during which he was shot dead. The others escaped. Among them, said Pol Col Kosol Pringkongphon, a Deputy Commander of Trang Provincial Police, was Anant Noojim, another gunman who is wanted in connection with four murders in Trang. The woman in the car was identified as his wife. They and the other two are still being sought by police. Chalaw was wanted for eight murders in Trang and “other cases” in Phuket and Phatthalung, Col Kosol said. Another senior police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Gazette that Chalaw was suspected of having carried out as many as 50 paid “hits”. Prasert and Thavorn Trairat were gunned down in their Thepkrasattri shophouse home on May 5 last year. Suchart Maneesuwan, arrested soon afterwards, confessed to playing a role in the murder, saying that he had pointed out the victims to the gunman, whom he identified as Chalaw. Wipa Jantong, 40, Chief Administrative Officer of Cherng Talay Municipality, and her husband Sompong, 51, an engineer with Phuket City Municipality, were arrested five months later on charges of ordering the hit, but police have since said that they believe the couple are innocent. All the members of the police team investigating the murder were transferred out of Phuket in April this year for “conducting a dishonest investigation”, following complaints from Suchart and the Jantongs. Pol Col Ronapong Saikaew, Superintendent of Investigation for Provincial Police Region 8, which includes Phuket, said that police know who hired Chalaw to murder the elderly couple, but added that investigators had yet to amass sufficient evidence to make an arrest.
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