Fake Likes probe turns to local operators

Fake Likes probe turns to local operators

Three Chinese suspects (third to fifth from the left) are brought to the 19th Military Circle in Aranyaprathet district, Sa Kaeo, on Monday. (Photo by Sawat Katengam)
Three Chinese suspects (third to fifth from the left) are brought to the 19th Military Circle in Aranyaprathet district, Sa Kaeo, on Monday. (Photo by Sawat Katengam)

Police are investigating how more than 300,000 unused Thai SIM cards got into the hands of three Chinese people allegedly operating in Thailand the business of generating fake page views and online engagement.

Police found about 100,000 SIM cards, many computers and other electronic equipment at a shophouse in Ratchata Withi Road in Muang Aranyaprathet district of Sa Kaeo Monday afternoon.

They searched the place following the statement of the three men arrested in the northeastern province on Sunday, allegedly for operating an illicit business.

Neither suspects nor mobile phones were found in the new location. People living nearby said two Chinese people rented the shophouse but left the place Sunday evening.

On Sunday, police and soldiers arrested Wang Dong, 33, Niu Bang, 25, and Ni Wenjin at two rented houses in tambon Ban Mai Nong Sai of Aranyaprathet. They found 474 iPhones of 5S, 5C and 4S series.

All in all, 347,200 SIM cards of Thai mobile phone operators and many computers and electronic devices were found in the two places.

Acting Pol Col Benjaphol Rodsawasdi, immigration chief of Sa Kaeo, said the trio told them a company in China supplied the phones to them and paid them 150,000 baht a month for the operation. The suspects refused to name the company, he said.

Manager Online reported the men told the police they boosted engagement -- "Like" or "Share" clicks -- for products sold online in China and used Thailand as the base because of relatively cheap mobile phone fees here.

According to the provincial immigration chief, the three entered Thailand through Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan province and used the equipment to operate bots to generate fake page views, likes and shares via WeChat, a Chinese app offering instant messaging and social media services.

Police were investigating how the gang had brought into the country so many mobile phones and acquired such a huge number of SIM cards from local service providers, which are required by law to keep users' records once they are activated, Pol Col Benjaphol said.

Police found that of the 347,200 SIM cards seized on Sunday, 112,200 SIM cards were from Advanced Info Service, 131,000 from True Move and 104,000 from DTAC.

Police were also hunting more Chinese suspects possibly of the same group and a leader who could afford to find so many phones and SIM cards, Pol Col Benjaphol said.

The three arrested suspects were initially charged with working illegally in the country and illegitimately importing the devices.



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