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Thais move to snare Bang Ron: Leave

Subject: Thais move to snare Bang Ron: Leave to cross border sought  from Burmese  

                                        October 30, 1998 


                   DRUG FUGITIVE

 Thais move to snare
 Bang Ron

 Leave to cross border sought from

 Burma is being asked to allow a Thai force across the border to
 arrest Surachai "Bang Ron" Ngernthongfoo, the drug fugitive believed
 hiding opposite Kanchanaburi.

 Lt-Gen Thaveep Suwansing, the First Army commander, has assigned
 Col Sakol Chuensakul, deputy commander of the 9th Infantry
 Division, to negotiate with Brig-Gen Chit Maung, military commander
 of Phaya Tongsu area.

 Brig-Gen Chit Maung wanted the force to carry out the mission by
 night but the Thai side wanted it during the daytime, citing concerns
 about clashes and casualties.

 A military task force has been placed on alert along the border in
 Sangkhla Buri district. A raiding unit of rangers from Pak Thong Chai
 camp, Nakhon Ratchasima, and Kanchanaburi has been sent to an
 area opposite Ban Nam Krirk on the Burmese side, where Bang Ron
 was believed to be hiding.

 Ranger radio frequencies and call signs have been ordered changed
 and use of mobile phones banned for fear of interception by Bang Ron
 and his colleagues.

 A source said authorities had been told to watch certain foreign
 non-governmental aid organisations believed linked to Bang Ron's
 drug network.

 Five or six junior police officers in Sangkhla Buri, thought to have
 collaborated with Bang Ron in the drug trade, have been transferred
 out to facilitate the operation.

 In Bangkok, police from the Narcotics Suppression Bureau and
 Metropolitan Police said they wanted to trace a L/Cpl Vitoon
 Klinkachorn, attached to the First Infantry Regiment.

 There appeared to be doubts about a lance corporal of that name said
 to have close ties to a Supreme Command general linked to Bang
 Ron's ring.

 Purchase orders for thousands of pills, and bank accounts showing
 large cash transfers had been found in L/Cpl Vitoon's quarters.

 However, L/Cpl Vitoon yesterday contacted Col Anut Tornsri, his
 direct commander, insisting he had nothing do with Bang Ron or

 Doubts about the involvement of the general were expressed by Gen
 Thiradet Mephien, permanent secretary for defence.

 Gen Thiradet said he met the general, a graduate from
 Chulachomklao's Class 14, who also met Gen Arkkradet Sasiprapa,
 deputy permanent secretary, to clear himself.

 "He has nothing to do with Bang Ron and is still working as a staff
 officer at the Office of Policy and Planning," said Gen Thiradet. The
 allegation was unfair, he said, and damaged the general's reputation.

 Gen Thiradet said the police had not made contact with the Defence
 Ministry but would cooperate fully once an official request was made.

 The ministry would not protect the general, a former deputy chief of
 the Armed Forces Security Centre, if there was firm evidence against
 him, he said.

 The general also met Gen Chettha Thanajaro, former army
 commander and now security adviser to Sanan Kachornprasart,
 deputy prime minister.

 Gen Mongkol Ampornpisit, the supreme commander, said police had
 yet to bring formal charges in the case but pledged tough action
 against any military officer involved in drugs trafficking.

 Some drugs suspects had implicated the officer during police
 interrogation but it was still unclear whether the general had really
 been involved, he said.

 "We have told the police the armed forces will cooperate fully and
 they have asked us for time before they file charges," said Gen
 Mongkol, a member of the government's drug suppression committee.

 Gen Surayud Chulanont, the army commander, said unit chiefs would
 be held responsible if their personnel were involved in the drugs trade.

 "I've already told commanders at all levels to pay attention to the issue
 as amphetamine abuse is widespread," he added. 



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 Last Modified: Fri, Oct 30, 1998
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