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Top Cop: Phuket is car-theft capital of the South



PHUKET: Thailand’s top traffic cop was in Phuket yesterday to brief top-ranking officers on the need to crack down on vehicle theft and the smuggling of luxury cars.

Assistant national police chief Rapeepat Palawong chaired a high-level meeting on the issue at Phuket Provincial Police Headquarters yesterday morning.

Lt Gen Rapeepat, who also serves as director of the National Traffic Center at Royal Thai Police Headquarters in Bangkok, told the assembled officers that vehicle theft rates in Police Region 8 were the highest in the Kingdom.

Worse, Phuket has the highest vehicle theft rate in Region 8, in large part due to the high numbers of vehicles that are rented out on the island annually, he said.

Reporting on the situation in Phuket, Col Aekawut Phonsaneh, who heads the investigation division at Phuket Provincial Police, said that in fiscal year 2011 there were 26 reports of stolen cars, with arrests in just five cases. As for motorcycle thefts, there were 95 cases with 57 arrests.

Progress in stopping car theft came with the arrest of 32-year-old Cherry Piwsa-ard, who turned herself in at Patong Police Station in July claiming that “God” had appeared to her in a dream and ordered her to surrender herself to authorities.

Her network was responsible for 14 stolen vehicles, all rented out locally and then sold in the three southern border provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.

Phuket Provincial Court warrants were also outstanding for the alleged leaders of two other car theft networks operating in Phuket. Col Aekawut identified them as Thanawut Khunmeun and Miss Nonreuthai Klinnin, both of whom stole cars for resale in other provinces, he said.

Phuket roads were also home to large numbers of luxury vehicles smuggled in by owners seeking to avoid tax, he added.

In order to bring more smuggled vehicle owners to justice, Traffic Police need to pay special attention to the license plates and vehicle tax payment stickers on the windshields to ensure they match, he said.

Vehicle theft was a major problem throughout Thailand, especially in border provinces where vehicles were stripped down and their parts smuggled out of the country for sale in neighboring states, he said.

Motorcycle theft cases in Phuket typically involved youths trying to support drug habits, said Lt Gen Rapeepat.

According to Phuket Provincial Police statistics for October 1, 2010 through August 31, 2011, there were 61 reported motorbike thefts in Phuket, a 48.8 per cent increase over the same period in the year before.

However, the number of stolen cars was down slightly, about 5 per cent, over the same period.

— Warisa Temram


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