Authorities in Thailand
arrested more than a dozen people who they believed were behind the
online gambling websites that generated THB100 million (US$2.85 million)
monthly, local media reported.
Thai officials made a sweep of 18
locations across Bangkok on Wednesday, which led to the arrest of the 16
individuals believed to be the clerical staffs in call centers taking bets and
handling accounts, according to a Thaivisa News report.
Officials said the arrested—all
of them Thai nationals—will face charges of money
laundering and advertising gambling, which is punishable by up to two
years in prison and fines of THB5,000.
Some 50 computers, communication
equipment, bank books and accounts were seized from the offices. Anti-Money
Laundering Office (AMLO) chief Pol Colonel Sihanart Prayoonrat told The
Nation that they have already frozen a total of THB10 million in 38 bank
accounts that were allegedly held by members of the gambling network.
Thailand’s outdated 1935 Gambling
Act bans all forms of gambling in the country, except for horseracing and the
lottery, prompting many punters to use online methods to place their bets on
internationally-licensed online operators.
The local Technology Crime
Suppression Division (TCSD) has been tasked to investigate such operations, but
agency officials admitted that they do not have “the authority to arrest
gambling operators outside the country” or even block the websites that hold
The agency, however, may soon
find an ally in the military.
Early this week, Prime Minister
Prayuth Chan-ocha bestowed “broad new police-like powers” to Thailand’s military forces,
enabling them to arrest and detained criminal suspects amid the government’s
crackdown on civil liberties.
The order, titled “Suppression of
wrongdoings that could threaten Thai economy and society,” gives army, navy and
air force soldiers with sub-lieutenant ranks and higher “the power to summon,
arrest and detain suspects in a wide range of crimes for up to seven days,”
according an Associated Press report.
With their new powers, Thai
soldiers can now act against people suspected of committing any of the 27 types
of crime, including extortion, human trafficking, robbery, fraud, forgery,
defamation, debt collection, gambling, child protection, prostitution, loan
sharking and tour guide services.
The Bangkok Post quoted
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan saying the soldiers can also act as
interrogators since there’s not enough police to take on crime in the country.