Police nab bird nest thieves

Police nab bird nest thieves

More warrants in case to be issued

Sixteen people have so far been arrested over the stealing and destruction of swiftlet nests in caves in Phatthalung over the course of several months ending September.

Police said the thieves caused the deaths of many birds and hatchlings.

Numerous incidents took place around islands, including Koh Si and Koh Ha, in Pak Phayun district, which are known sources for materials used in bird's nest soup. Police said that the bird nest thieves encroached on the sites from June 14 to Sept 9.

Siam Nest 2022 Co Ltd -- which has the concession to collect birds' nests on these islands -- sent their bird nest collectors to the caves last month where they found many chicks dead on the ground, especially in Ai Kong Yai cave. Normally, some 6,000 nests are collected each round, but the workers managed to find only 18 nests.

As there was initially no progress in the case, national police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk ordered his assistant Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn to oversee investigations. Other related agencies have also been deployed to investigate the case as it may involve politicians. An order was likewise made to transfer a police colonel due to the slow progress of the case.

An investigating unit from the capital asked Phatthalung Provincial Court to issue arrest warrants against six male suspects, two of whom reportedly caused damages worth billions of baht. Four of those suspects were from Pak Phayun district. They were caught on Oct 6 and faced charges including colluding to collect birds' nests on the islands without a concession, as well as causing harm to birds' nests in the non-hunting area under Section 14 of the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act 2019. Police then arrested two others who turned out to be volunteers with the swiftlet nest protection unit. They face charges for malfeasance in office under sections 149 and 157 of the criminal code.

Pol Lt Gen Surachate said the expanded investigation further led to the issuance of warrants against another 11 suspects earlier last Wednesday. Ten have now been caught and only a suspect named Sutham Khunlam, 48, remains at large. "More warrants will be issued by next week. Details have yet to be disclosed if there are links to a certain political group but police pledge to arrest all accomplices," said Pol Lt Gen Surachate.

The investigations follow an earlier case where police nabbed two women for collecting birds' nests from the island which they sold on social media.

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