Seven Thais have been arrested for smuggling Chinese nationals from Laos to across Thailand in cases that police are investigating further to see if they are linked to call centre gangs.
Provincial Police Region 3 commissioner Pol Lt Gen Somprasong Yenthuan held a press briefing on Monday revealing a series of related arrests by Highway Police, Immigration Police and Phibun Mangsahan Police in Ubon Ratchathani province.
On March 31, officers found a Thai man smuggled three Chinese nationals into Thailand through the border. Later on May 17, police also apprehended another two Thai men who had participated in the smuggling.
Pol Lt Gen Somprasong said the three Chinese nationals might have been involved in transnational crimes, such as call-centre scams and cyber crimes.
He revealed that the accomplices would make a deal with Lao middlemen who procure Chinese people to be sent across the Thai-Lao border.
After entering Thailand, Thais would drive the Chinese nationals to border towns such as Mae Sot district of Tak province and help them cross the border into Myanmar.
They would be accompanied by a few cars to safeguard the smuggled Chinese nationals from police. Many drivers were reported to be relatives or people residing in the same village.
Pol Lt Gen Somprasong revealed they were paid tens of thousands of baht to drive Chinese people to the Myanmar border.
According to the investigation, officers found that the Thai gang usually picked up Chinese people from the Thai-Cambodian border in Khemmarat district of Ubon Ratchathani.
Pol Lt Gen Somprasong said officers followed one suspected smuggling run from Ubon Ratchathani to Phitsanulok. The Highway Police finally captured them in Wang Thong district in Phitsanulok on May 17.
Three Chinese nationals — Zhang Jian Qiu, Li Hai Ping and Yang Jin Yi — and one Kazakh — Aigerim Kalzhanova — were found in the cars.
Four Thais, three men and one woman, had accompanied the foreign nationals on the run, and they have been charged.
The investigation indicated that border towns in neighbouring countries had been used for offices of call-centre gangs and transnational criminal rings operated by Chinese nationals. Investigations are ongoing.