Gamblers and hosts at illegal gambling dens are being jailed as massive crackdown proceeds apace
Latest gambling bust on a casino located at a high-end condominium resort in Pattaya on Saturday morning. It comes as the government is about to announce a panel of enquiry into illegal gambling dens linked by public health officials to more and more clusters of infection throughout the kingdom. The panel will have fact-finding powers and those, found to be involved in operating gambling dens or frequenting them, will face prosecution under a range of existing provisions. It is also expected that the panel will look into infringements of immigration laws and human trafficking connected with the illicit activity which has already seen senior police officers removed from their posts. It comes as the PM, this week, made it clear that he had never received any illegal kickbacks from illegal gambling activity despite unfounded rumours.
A combined force of Tourist and Pattaya police, accompanied by health officials, raided two condominium units on the 5th floor at 1 am on Saturday at the Espana Condominium & Resort in the Bang Lamung area of Pattaya. Twenty-one people were arrested. It comes as over 90 people, including 81 gamblers, have already been jailed in relation to a gambling crackdown launched across the kingdom but particularly in Bangkok as a deputy police commissioner told the media, in the past few days, that over 3,800 people have been either prosecuted or are already facing prosecution. This week, the Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha, squarely blamed a range of illicit activities such as gambling, human trafficking and the importation of illegal migrant workers for Thailand’s second wave of infection.
The government is getting ready to announce a panel to investigate the illegal gambling industry as a matter of urgency as Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha, has vowed to get tough on illegal activities and in particular on corrupt officials who facilitate them.
It comes as news emerges from Pattaya of an early morning raid in the resort city, on Saturday, where 21 people were taken into custody with no less than 14 Chinese nationals among them. The arrests included 5 Thai nationals, one from Cambodia and a Singaporean.
The raid was led by Police Major General Thiti Saengsawang who is the acting Chief of Police for Chonburi following the removal of his predecessor after illegal gambling dens were found to be ubiquitous throughout the province as we have also seen in Rayong, Bangkok and other Thai provinces.
PM denies benefiting financially from the extensive underground industry which is believed to exist
Speaking on a ‘Meet the People ‘ podcast, the premier found it necessary to address unfounded rumours concerning himself and what is believed to be an extensive underground industry in Thailand.
He rejected rumours that he had benefited from the payment of bribes and kickbacks by gambling operators to police and local officials on the ground. The PM said he was puzzled by such reports and underlined that he had never received illicit payments related to any illegal activity.
He said that his focus was merely to serve the country
General Prayut said he despised those who bribed officials to ignore wrongdoing in such capers
Speaking personally, he said he despised those who proffered bribes to officials in order to let legal activity run ahead unimpeded.
He would be happy to see all those involved tracked down by police investigators. He warned that when this happens, authorities will not accept excuses from corrupt players such as ‘they were my relatives or my friends’.
He vowed that ‘bad officials’ whether in the police or any arm of the government would be found and rooted out given the hardship inflicted on Thailand due to the growing second wave which has been caused by contagion stemming from human trafficking activity, the illegal importation of migrant labour into the kingdom and an extensive network of underground gambling dens which Thailand’s public health officials have now linked to many of the clusters in Bangkok and adjacent provinces notably Chonburi and Rayong.
‘We need to get rid of the bad eggs and unscrupulous state officials. The government will be right behind the efforts to root them out,’ Prime Minister Prayut affirmed.
Covid-19 virus wave spreading
On Friday, there were 205 Covid 19 infections reported but more worryingly, there are now 19 zones of high infection provinces or ‘red zones’ where strong measures against the virus have had to be taken with an infection spread of 57 provinces.
However, officials at the Ministry of Public Health are reportedly becoming more optimistic at the projected path of this outbreak which is why they are emphasising continued contact tracing efforts.
Government panel to investigate illegal gambling
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Friday that over the next few days a panel of enquiry into the problems of gambling dens in the country will be established and a chairperson nominated by the government.
The DPM stressed that the panel would not have powers of arrest or to charge people but that its findings would be acted upon promptly by officials and police.
He said that criminal charges would follow under the existing provisions of the human trafficking acts, the Communicable Disease Act, the Immigration Act and other provisions which give the government all the scope it needs to effectively prosecute wrongdoers.
Crackdown reaching down into the Bangkok underworld as dens scramble to close up shop
Meanwhile, Bangkok’s gambling dens are being closed down with reports that owners are scrambling to remove fittings and gambling paraphernalia from their properties as a crackdown across the metropolis sweeps through it, district by district, reaching into the underground.
On Wednesday, the 6th of January, police found baccarat tables on a road in Lat Karabang. The revelation came from Metropolitan Police Bureau Commissioner Police Lieutenant General Phukphong Phongpetra who said that they had fallen off a vehicle as they were being driven from an illegal underground casino to a warehouse in the MinBuri area of the city.
Police are currently tracking down the owner of the premises as part of their crackdown which has already seen scores of people imprisoned.
Gamblers caught in Bangkok already sent to prison for 15 days with hosts receiving seven month sentences
Police Major General Piya Tawichai, the Deputy Police Commissioner in Bangkok, on Tuesday, told the media that 94 people have been arrested and already prosecuted in relation to a gambling den on the Chaengwattana Road.
He revealed that among these included 13 casino hosts who have already been jailed for seven months while eighty-one gamblers had also been sent to prison for 15 days and fined ฿15,000.
He also mentioned the reported 19 illegals arrested in the last week, of which, seven had tested positive for Covid 19 in recent days. He said that they had been traced back by police to a now-closed gambling den in the PinKlao area of the city.
He told reporters that, in total, over 3,800 people had been prosecuted or faced prosecution in connection with the current government crackdown on gambling.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan clarifies earlier comments about gambling dens in Bangkok
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan has extracted himself from a statement he made earlier in the week, which sparked a media reaction, when he was quoted as saying that there were no gambling dens in Bangkok.
On Thursday, he lashed out at these reports following the controversy that erupted in the wake of his comments.
‘I didn’t mean that gambling dens do not exist,’ he clarified. ‘We all know that there are gambling dens but it is the duty of police to eradicate these illicit activities.’
Abbot encourages gamblers in Pattaya to get tested
On Wednesday, it was reported that the Abbot of the Wat Rangsee Sutthawat temple in the Sri Racha district of Chonburi had come out to publicly urge those who frequented two well known illegal gambling dens believed still to be open in the province, to go and get tested for the virus.
Controversy over tracking app as the government is still fighting virus spread cluster by cluster
In the meantime, while the prime minister has vowed to crack down on corrupt officials and illegal networks which are increasingly seen as responsible for this current outbreak, he has urged the public to download the government’s Mor Channa tracking app on their smartphones.
The app allows officials to track people’s movements and interactions after someone is diagnosed with the infection. These efforts are still seen as critical as Thai officials have not given up hope of curbing the current outbreak.
The app is generating some controversy after officials with the Centre for Covid 19 Situation Administration suggested, earlier in the week, that anyone who became infected and was found not to have downloaded it for tracking in red zone provinces could conceivably face prosecution.
General Prayut adopted a more moderate tone and warned the public to be ready to truthfully account for their movements to authorities if they should come to be infected as Thailand is still working to prevent the worst over the coming few months.