Three helicopters were deployed to the Banthad mountain range as police surrounded mountainous areas in four provinces to hunt down escaped prisoner Chaowalit Thongduang following Wednesday's clash.
Chaowalit, alias Sia Paeng Nanod, managed to flee after he was involved in the shootout with police on Wednesday in his hideout in the mountainous region of Trang province. He and his armed men, whose identity was not clear, reportedly fled towards the eastern side of the mountain range.
On Wednesday, media reports initially claimed that Chaowalit had been shot dead during the exchange of gunfire with police. However, senior police officials insisted that this was not true.
Chaowalit, 37, was serving time for attempted murder and faced multiple other criminal charges, including murder. He fled from Maharat Nakhon Si Thammarat Hospital on Oct 22. He had been taken there for. dental treatment and was subsequently admitted after collapsing, claiming he had severe leg pains. Despite being restrained to the bed and wearing leg chains, he escaped overnight.
Seven people were arrested for allegedly aiding in the escape of Chaowalit, and three warders faced arrest warrants for dereliction of duty in connection with his escape.
On Thursday, Pol Gen Thana Chuwong, acting deputy national police chief, held a meeting with police and concerned agencies at Don Tae forest protection unit in Palian district of Trang to follow up on the situation and draw up measures to hunt down the escapee.
Pol Gen Thana said the prisoner was believed to be in hiding in the mountain range and he wanted him to quickly surrender. There was a high possibility that the convict was armed with heavy weapons, according to police.
The prisoner managed to escape because a dog at his temporary shelter barked when it saw police approaching on Wednesday, said the acting deputy police chief. He believed some people had assisted hime in fleeing arrest.
The Hanuman special task force joins a police operation to hunt down prisoner Sia Paeng Nanod. (Photo: Central Investigation Bureau)
The Hanuman special task force was deployed to support the police operation. Teams of police surrounded four southern provinces of Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phatthalung, Satun and Trang.
Three police helicopters were deployed to a forested area to search for Chaowalit, but there was no sign of him. Officers only found one M4 carbine believed to belong to the prisoner.
Pol Maj Gen Piyawat Chalermsri, deputy commissioner of the Provincial Police Region 9, said Chaowalit opened fire first when he saw police approaching his hideout. Both sides exchanged fire before the prisoner fled.
A search of the shelter found a power generator, suggesting that Chaowalit had been well-prepared for his escape, said Pol Maj Gen Piyawat.
National police chief Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol on Thursday urged the family and those close to Chaowalit to persuade him to surrender if he contacted them, as police did not want to use violence as it would lead to loss of lives.
If the prisoner opened fire, the officers had to follow legal procedures, said Pol Gen Torsak.
He said the prisoner and his men were armed with war weapons and more than 600 rounds of ammunition.