Government launches anti-mafia campaign

Government launches anti-mafia campaign

Intelligence panel to investigate gangs

A tuk-tuk gang cheating tourists at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha was the first to catch attention of the newest anti-mafia campaign launched Thursday by the military regime. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
A tuk-tuk gang cheating tourists at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha was the first to catch attention of the newest anti-mafia campaign launched Thursday by the military regime. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

The government kicked off a campaign to crack down on mafia-style gangs across the country on Thursday.  

A new intelligence panel has been set up to gather information on the gangs, defence spokesman Maj Gen Khongchip Tantrawanit quoted Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon as saying Thursday.

The panel, led by Gen Prawit and made up of officials from various state agencies, will investigate the suspects before the government enforces legal action against them, Maj Gen Khongchip said. 

The anti-mafia commission will "focus on intelligence, not search or arrest", said Gen Prawit, also the Defence Minister.

Authorities will then decide whether to use "hard" or "soft" measures against the suspect, he said.

Whatever the methods, the aim would be to ensure peace and safety for the public, Gen Prawit added.

The intelligence officials will work in all tambon and villages nationwide and will need the public's help to do their job, Maj Gen Khongchip said. However, it is unlikely they will wipe out all mafia-related crime, he added.

To support the mission, the Crime Suppression Division is preparing a list of influential figures and crime maps of areas for use in future crackdowns.

The public can help police by providing tip-offs and giving police clues in their operations against the influential figures, said Maj Gen Khongchip.

Targets include business people, state officials, police, military officers and politicians, government spokesman Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd quoted Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as saying.

Maj Gen Sansern said the premier was worried about increasing crime, especially crimes related to mafia and military-grade weapons, and last month instructed key agencies to renew their efforts to weed them out.

Representatives from the Royal Thai Police, the Defence Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the National Intelligence Agency and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) will work under the anti-mafia commission.

The NCPO has played a leading role in tackling mafia-related crimes since it rose to power in last May, Maj Gen Sansern said.

Influential figures, public land encroachers and unregistered taxi operators are all on its watchlist.

Police arrested 58 suspects Thursday for "causing trouble for tourists" at Bangkok's two major attractions -- Sanam Luang and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

They included five unlicenced tourist guides, 13 taxi drivers who rejected passengers, 35 motorists who parked cars in prohibited areas and five people who pestered tourists by offering to take them to tourist spots in return for what they called "broker fees", police said.

These suspects were classified in 10 "prohibited groups" that included drug dealers, illegal immigrants and transnational criminals, said deputy national police inspector-general Pol Lt Gen Naret Nanthachot. Officers would continue to crack down on those groups.

Pol Lt Gen Thitirat Nongharnpitak, Central Investigation Bureau chief, said he welcomed the government's decision to stamp out mafia-style gangs as there were many people suffering from intimidation by these groups.

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