A former assistant village head and his son accused of duping residents into opening bank accounts to launder drug network money have been arrested in Chiang Mai.
A special task force of Narcotics Suppression Bureau officials and army rangers raided a house in tambon Mon Pin of Fang district yesterday morning to arrest Somsak Sakhonkhiri, 48, former assistant head of Nong Phai village in Fang district.
They had a warrant for Mr Somsak's arrest for money laundering, but he was not there. While they were searching the premises, Mr Somsak was spotted running away from behind the house. He didn't make it, and was caught.
Mr Somsak denied any involvement in the drug trade. He admitted he used to take people from his village to open bank accounts, so they could better manage their money. He said he also accompanied people who had to go to the police station or court.
He was adamant that helping people in the village open accounts had nothing to do with the drug trade. He denied he hired them to open the accounts to receive drug money as alleged.
The former assistant village head said he ran when police arrived at his house because he mistook them for robbers.
Police allege Mr Somsak had hired people to open bank accounts to receive money from a drug network run by Veera Muenjada, a drug trafficker who remains at large.
In 2015, Mr Somsak allegedly accompanied at least 30 local residents to open bank accounts. Money paid into those accounts was later transferred to drug traffickers in Myanmar.
More than 500 million baht circulated through the accounts, according to police.
Mr Somsak's son, Charoonroj Sakhonkhiri, 22, was also caught during the raid and faces the same charges.
Two other suspects in drug cases were also arrested during raids on 22 locations in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces yesterday, during which 400,000 methamphetamine pills, 200 grammes of heroin, a pistol and other items with a combined value of at least 5 million baht were seized, police said.
The operation also targeted Suda Harncharoenchaikul, a former candidate of the Prachachart Party for Chiang Rai's constituency 5.
The 37-year-old woman is wanted on a warrant for allegedly laundering money from the drug trade. She was not at her house in Thoeng district of Chiang Rai when police arrived.