Villagers asked to leave amid manhunt for escaped prisoner

Villagers asked to leave amid manhunt for escaped prisoner

Belongings of a fugitive: Seized firearms, ammunition, survival kits and equipment in the forest believed to belong to fugitive prisoner Chaowalit Thongduang, alias Sia Paeng Nanod, are on Saturday displayed at a press briefing in the Banthad mountain range in Patthalung and Satun provinces.
Belongings of a fugitive: Seized firearms, ammunition, survival kits and equipment in the forest believed to belong to fugitive prisoner Chaowalit Thongduang, alias Sia Paeng Nanod, are on Saturday displayed at a press briefing in the Banthad mountain range in Patthalung and Satun provinces.

Residents in a mountainous village have been asked to leave temporarily so police can hunt down the escaped prisoner Chaowalit Thongduang, who managed to flee after a shootout with police on Wednesday in Palian district of Trang.

The manhunt for Chaowalit, alias Sia Paeng Nanod, in the Banthad mountain range, is intensifying, with authorities in two adjourning districts of Manang and Thungwa, both in neighbouring Satun province, setting up checkpoints to screen people around-the-clock.

It is believed the prisoner and his armed bodyguards fled towards the eastern side of the mountain range. Police and forest patrol officers have been mobilised for the search.

Those from the Crime Suppression Division and forest patrol officers are covering the areas in the Banthad wildlife sanctuary in Satun province while dozens of officers from Provincial Police Region 9 and local police in Trang are covering the mountainous areas using motorcycles.

Suthon (surname withheld), resident of Bantra village, said police asked residents to vacate the areas for two days and his family has complied for their own safety. He dares not go to work at a rubber plantation until the fugitive is caught, he said.

Chokechai Limma, assistant village head, said villagers are being told to steer clear of the forest and allow police to do their work.

Pairote Damplab, a resident in Satun's Manang district, said the order is affecting a group of indigenous Mani people who make a living by collecting forest items. He said he hopes the escaped prisoner will be caught soon.

Meanwhile, police from the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) on Saturday raided a house in Phatthalung's Muang district to search for evidence after learning that its owner allegedly aided Chaowalit's escape.

Seized from the search were two mobile phones and the house owner -- identified only as Kasichart, who is also Chaowalit's cousin -- was taken to Muang Phatthalung station for questioning.

He would face a criminal charge if there was solid evidence that he had assisted Chaowalit's escape, according to the police.

Chaowalit, 37, was serving time for attempted murder. He fled from Maharat Nakhon Si Thammarat Hospital on Oct 22 after having been taken there for dental treatment, where he was admitted after collapsing and claiming he had severe leg pains.

Despite being restrained to the bed and wearing leg chains, he escaped overnight.

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