Thailand’s police and military are under fire after raids on illegal gambling dens exposed connections between officers and operators.
On Monday, police raided an underground casino in Chalong district on the island of Phuket after receiving a tipoff from neighbors that gambling activities – including slot machines and a three-dice game called ‘High-Low’ – were going on daily in a private house.
The neighbors told police that the operators were conducting their activities “with no apparent fear of the law.” The reason for that lack of fear became evident after police raided the house. Of the estimated 100 people at the facility at the time of the raid, around 40 were subsequently arrested, including a number of government officers.
On Thursday, the Phuket News reported that one of the Royal Thai Navy officers who’d led the raid had accused an Army colonel of ordering him to call off the dogs. Col Sompop Kamkana said that one of the women he’d arrested handed him her phone, saying there was someone who wanted to talk to him.
Sompop said the man on the phone claimed to be an Army colonel, who told Sompop to release the arrested suspects and forget the whole thing ever happened. When Sompop refused, the Army officer “started to condemn me with very rude words. He also threatened that he had powerful friends who would have me transferred out of Phuket.”
Sompop said phone records had confirmed that the call did come from a phone registered to an Army colonel, although Sompop declined to publicly identify the man. Sompop has alerted Phuket’s governor about the call and is calling on the colonel’s commanding officer to assist the Navy in its investigation of the incident.
Meanwhile, a raid on a gambling den in Bangkok has resulted in the reassignment of a police superintendent and four of his subordinates. Army troops in Prawet district raided a three-story shophouse on Monday, arresting 31 suspects found engaging in illegal gambling.
The next day, the commander of the Metropolitan Police Bureau ordered the Prawel police superintendent, the deputy superintendent and three inspectors to report to the Metro operations center, where they will remain for the next 30 days while an internal investigation is conducted. The extent of the officers’ involvement with the gambling den’s operations remains unknown.
Casinos are illegal in Thailand, despite efforts by local politicians and senior law enforcement figures to convince the country’s rulers to drop the longstanding prohibition and reap some of the revenue that is currently being collected by gaming operators across the border in Cambodia.