Thai cops identify more suspects in gold heist

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(Xinhua/Rachen Sageamsak)

BANGKOK (Bangkok Post) – Police have identified two more suspects in the 85-million-baht (about $2.8 million) gold heist in Songkhla, which is believed to be a part of a wider attempt to finance insurgent plots in the deep South.

Chief of Provincial Police Region 9, Pol Lt Gen Ronasilp Phusara, said police are preparing to ask the court to issue arrest warrants for Wae-useng Dueraheng and Saifutdin Hayipute.

“Both men are accused of working with militant groups in the area,” he said.

“They are already wanted under arrest warrants issued for security-related cases, including in Pattani.”

Earlier on Monday, Pol Lt Gen Ronasilp identified the key suspect in the heist as Jae-arong Heng. Investigators believe he was the one who led the gang in robbing Suthada gold shop in Songkhla’s Na Thawi district last Saturday.

Mr Jae-arong is also said to be an “active” insurgent operating in border areas between Pattani and Songkhla.

“We have determined that those who carried out the heist were also involved in insurgent activities in the past,” said Pol Lt Gen Ronasilp, who reiterated the police’s belief the heist was done to support future militant operations.

“Take as an example, the bombings at ATM booths in Yala,” he said. “What they want is money.”

He said the blasts were not simply aimed to stir up violence in the Muslim-dominated region.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said on Monday the proceeds from the robbery would be used by the insurgents to buy weapons.

The gang, believed to consist of at least 14 members, might have fled to Malaysia’s Kedah state, according to police investigators. Suthada gold shop had been previously robbed in 2005.

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