Navy busts Mekong car smugglers

Navy busts Mekong car smugglers

Seven alleged members of a car-smuggling gang were arrested on the Mekong River by a navy patrol in Nakhon Phanom province late Wednesday.

The Mekong Riverine Unit patrol led by Lt Prasert Puttha laid in wait on the bank of the Mekong between Ban Tha Dok Kaeo and Ban Tan Pak Nam in Tha Uthen district after learning that a number of stolen vehicles would be smuggled across the river to Laos, the Nakhon Phanom MRU commander said.

Late in the night, the sailors spotted a ferry made of two flat-bottomed boats fit with outboard motors moving from the Lao side to a boat landing at Ban Dok Kaew.

After landing and being loaded, the makeshift ferry took off with one long-tailed boat running in the front and another in the rear.

When the ferry was about 10 metres from the bank, the MRU patrolmen identified themselves and ordered a search. Crewmen on the long-tailed boats - believed to be providing protection for the smugglers
 opened fire on authorities and sped away to the other side of the river.  The navy team fired 10 times in return.

The patrol rounded up seven men on the ferry: Virat Tonsri, 25, Sompop Suna, 25, Manop Suna, 37, Jirasak Kach-a, 36, Uthai Lakangtha, 28, Chaiya Thongsri, 38, and Chatree Surinam, 33. All are natives of Tha Uthen district.

Found on the ferry was a Toyota Vigo pickup truck, registered in Nakhon Si Thammarat.

Authorities said the seven confessed to having been hired by a Lao national to take the vehicle across the river to Ban Phong of Muang Hinboun of Laos.  They were each paid 1,500 baht.

Sources said most of the vehicles smuggled to Laos are four-dour Toyota Vigos trucks, which are sold for 300,000-400,000 baht each.

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