The government has doubled its efforts to eradicate an illegal pork network in the country and is adamant it will wrap up any related cases by next month, government spokesman Chai Wacharonke said.
Mr Chai and members of the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo), Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and other agencies issued a joint statement on Thursday on the progress of the crackdown.
Mr Chai said the problem started before the government took office and it has tremendously impacted the economy.
Since Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin assumed office, he has instructed relevant agencies to deal with the issue swiftly, Mr Chai said.
DSI director-general Pol Maj Suriya Singhakamol said an expanded investigation by the authorities revealed that smugglers have brought in 2,385 cargo containers of illegal pork, worth about 3 billion baht, since 2020.
The DSI categorises gangs connected to the illegal pork network into three groups -- import companies, financiers and freezer room providers.
The DSI initially pressed charges against six suspects from five companies before an expanded probe netted two more suspects. However, the DSI is moving towards wrapping up the case by next month.
Authorities are speeding up their investigation to track down those who have been on the run and trace the money transactions.
Meanwhile, Northeast Micro-Scale Swine Farmer Union Chairman Duenden Yimyaem reportedly submitted data on an illegal pork smuggling route to Pol Maj Natapon Disayatham, director of the DSI's special criminal investigation centre, on Wednesday.
Mr Duenden told reporters the information pertains to an expansive route with a scale on par with direct sales companies targeting restaurants and fresh markets.
Illegal frozen pork has driven down the profits of small pig farmers, who now find themselves outcompeted. The problem has depressed the overall prices of pork in the market.
The union said it was looking to propose a way out, as agreed by small pig farm groups, in a meeting with the Department of Livestock Development (DLD) on Friday.
The association will ask that the Price of Goods and Services Act be invoked to fix the prices of pork bought at farms at a rate not below the production cost of 80 baht per kg for 90 days. This is to maintain liquidity for pig farmers.