The Crime Suppression Division (CSD) has launched three consecutive operations to stamp out the online illegal arms trade in the past two weeks.
During COVID-19, many shoppers have turned to buying online, and arms purchases are apparently no exception, despite the risk.
Thais are ordering firearms online from illegal traders on the black market. The guns are distributed to criminal networks which can lead to future crime.
Pol Maj Gen Jirabhop Bhuridej, deputy commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau, instructed CSD commander Pol Maj Gen Suwat Saengnum to stamp out the problem.
Before the operation, Pol Col Pongpanot Chukaew, superintendent of the CSD’s sub-division 6, picked up clues about the source of illegal arms trade via a secret Facebook group named Chum Chon Talat Dam (“Black Market Community”) and a Line group, used in the southern region, with more than 200 members.
After their investigation, police captured three offenders, the group founder and various admins in Songkhla’s Sadao district. They also seized more than 40 firearms.
“One suspect said an agent in Bangkok works with a major arms trader, who runs a gold shop and courier service to hide his illegal arms business,” said Pol Col Chukaew.
He would send the firearm when he received an order. This clue would later lead to the crackdown operation.
Pol Col Chukaew said the operation started early on 2nd June and involved raids on eight spots across Bangkok and other provinces.
Police arrested Anapat Rujirapat, 43, a major arms online trader who owned a gold shop in the Nong Khaem area and other two accomplices – Naruepon Channuan, 39, and Saharat Lopthongkham, 27.
Police seized 41 pistols, 15 rifles, 14 grenades and about 1,000 cartridges of ammunition.
Pol Col Chukaew said the transactions was made through Naruepon’s bank account and the parcel would be sent by Saharat. The suspects admitted their part in the racket.
Initially, all three face charges of possessing firearms without permission and possessing weapons of war.
On 4th June, CSD police started the second crackdown, searching a room at a condo on Phutthamonthon Sai 2 Road which was used to store 78 firearms and ammunition. All items were seized and later handed to forensic experts to determine whether they were linked to other crimes.
A third operation started on 9th June in which Sippawut Promprasit, 28, was nabbed in front of a gun repair shop in Phra Nakhon district.
Sipawut was wanted on arrest warrant issued on a charge of possessing firearms with intent to distribute.
Police said Sipawut procured illegal weapons and supplied them to the online black market community busted in Songkhla earlier.
The CSD has been busy suppressing the illegal arms trade since May.
It has arrested nine suspects to date and seized 154 firearms, 14 grenades and thousands of pieces of ammunition in transactions worth more than 100 million baht, Pol Col Chukaew said.
Some Thais procured illegal firearms which were smuggled into the country or traded locally made guns.
“If we allow illegal arms trading to continue, it could lead to future crimes as most of the customers were found to be gun collectors, hitmen and even drug networks,” said Pol Maj Gen Bhuridej.