Police suspect the large stash of foreign money, worth almost 120 million baht, which led to the killing of the crew of a boat carrying the cash off the coast of Pattani early this month, may be connected to illegal commerce.
Seven crew members of the boat, which was carrying the money from Songkhla to Pattani, were shot and killed on Oct 2. Six bodies have been retrieved from the sea, while the fate of another crew member is unknown.
Police have not yet located the vessel, believed to have been sunk following the attack.
Six men have so far been arrested at separate locations in the South and in Nonthaburi for allegedly killing the crew and stealing the cash _ S$2.6 million and 5.6 million Malaysian ringgit.
A police source said investigators were convinced the stolen cash was connected to illegal foreign exchange, phoy kuan (underground money transfers) or illegal oil trading.
Pol Maj Gen Supisal Pakdinaruenart, commander of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), said yesterday he had ordered investigators to trace the sources of the money.
A police team, led by Metropolitan Police Bureau Investigation Division chief Prayon Lasua, yesterday arrested two suspects for the theft of the cash _ Kittipit Thipayakonglat, 42, and Somyot Sudleau, 43. They were apprehended in Nonthaburi's Bang Kruai district with ringgit equivalent to 13 million baht.
The four other suspects arrested earlier in the South were Thawee Nitparn, 44, Prasert Somchuay, 47, Phan Sangthong, 45, and Samphan Wannurat, 47. They were caught in Songkhla, Pattani and Krabi provinces.
Two other suspects _ Kasem Kanpan and Akom Poonchana _ remain at large.
The case emerged after Tangthai Banmahing, a representative of Sahasab International Co hired to transport the cash, filed a complaint with the CSD on Oct 9.
The firm asked police to track down armed robbers who stole the money from the tow boat Sathapornwatthana.
Ms Tangthai told police the boat was carrying the cash from a foreign exchange trading firm in Songkhla to a "very important" client on Losin island in Pattani. The vessel left on Oct 2.
She said the crew members alerted the company via radio that they were under attack before communications were lost.
Mr Akom, who was on board the Suthapornwatthana, was believed to have signalled the attackers to fire at the vessel, Pol Maj Gen Supisal said.
The attackers sprayed bullets and killed the crew before stealing the money.
Pol Maj Gen Supisal said police later found stolen Singapore dollars, marked by the company with an "S" in ink, were being exchanged in a province in the South.