The Immigration Bureau's effort to work closer with its Asean counterparts bore quick results last week with the arrest of an Indonesian man wanted for murder in his home country.
Mulyadi Budiman, 20, was detained at Don Mueang airport just before he boarded a plane to Laos, police said. They credited the capture to an informal exchange of information between Thai and Indonesian police.
The arrest came only six days after Asean police representatives attended a forum hosted by the Immigration Bureau on ways they could work together to help combat transnational crimes _ a priority given the emergence of the Asean Economic Community in 2015.
Investigators at the meeting exchanged phone numbers and shared information about criminal suspects.
The event drew participants from China, Japan, South Korea and Australia. Information shared at the meeting quickly led to Mr Budiman's arrest in Bangkok.
Mr Budiman allegedly colluded with three others to arrange the murder of William Liem, the 24-year-old son of a kitchenware business tycoon, at an internet cafe in Jakarta on March 12, last year.
Police say the killers put a plastic bag over Liem's head and hammered him to death. Liem had refused to pay a 24-million-baht gambling debt.
The other three suspects were rounded up in Indonesia, while Mr Budiman managed to flee to Singapore before entering Thailand on March 20.
Having been tipped off by the Indonesian police, the Immigration Bureau launched an investigation by tracing Mr Budiman's mobile phone signal. The trace led police to believe he was hiding in Chaiyaphum province.
Investigators discovered he had booked a flight to Udon Thani, a stop-over as he attempted to flee to Laos.
Police nabbed Mr Budiman before he boarded the flight at Don Mueang airport on Tuesday.
"The arrest resulted from informal contacts and information exchanged with Indonesian police attached to their embassy in Thailand," said Immigration Bureau chief Phanu Kerdlarpphol. "This led to the quick arrest."
A formal request letter would have slowed the probe down. "It wastes time," he said.
"Informal forums will be a new platform that could assist police work when the AEC takes effect," he added.
Pol Lt Gen Phanu said the AEC could boost the number of transnational crimes. He said if investigators in the region exchange personal contacts, fugitives and suspects could be found sooner.
He said 30 personal phone numbers were exchanged between officers during the conference.
Pol Lt Gen Phanu also pitched the idea of posting Thai police to various embassies around the world to assist with criminal investigations.
"Thailand does not have police at embassies," he said. That made international cooperation difficult.
Citing Asean statistics involving the arrest of transnational criminals last year, Pol Lt Gen Phanu said 53 Myanmar nationals were apprehended, followed by 32 Thais, 13 Lao nationals, 9 Cambodians, two Malaysians and two Filipinos.
Closer cooperation among Asean police would lead to more arrests, he said.
Pol Lt Gen Phanu said Vietnamese gangs have been committing more crimes in Thailand. "Vietnamese people have come to work as labourers in Thailand and some are connected with extortion activities," he said.
The gangs tend not to target Thais, but the crimes still need to be stamped out, he said.
Pol Maj Gen Ronnasilp Pusara, chief investigator of the Immigration Police Bureau, said the arrest of the Indonesian suspect sets a good example for international cooperation in police work.
Many other countries are also contacting Thailand to share information in criminal cases, he said.
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- Writer: Wassayos Ngamkham