Thai police foil attempt to smuggle 44 macaques stuffed in boxes, three die of suffocation

BANGKOK (The Nation/Asia News Network): Highway police swooped in on a Thai man trying to smuggle monkeys across the border to Laos on Tuesday (April 25) after receiving a tip-off.

Boonchuay (surname withheld), 44, was arrested on Tuesday evening following a car chase in Udon Thani’s Nong Harn district. In his MPV, police found 44 sedated monkeys crammed in plastic boxes. Three had died from suffocation.

Long-tailed macaques are a protected species in Thailand and Boonchuay was arrested for having protected wild animals in possession.

Acting on a tip-off that there might be an attempt to smuggle monkeys across to Laos, highway police in Nong Harn district set up a checkpoint on the main highway. When they spotted a black Toyota Avanza approaching at 4pm, they signalled for the MPV to stop but it sped off.

After chasing the car for about a kilometre, the black MPV relented and stopped. Police noted that a pick-up truck and a sedan car that had preceded the MPV had sped off.

Police searched the MPV and found 44 sedated long-tailed macaques in net bags stuffed in 13 plastic boxes.

Police also found that three male monkeys, two of which were only six-months-old and the other a year old, had died from suffocation after other monkeys were piled on top of them.

The rescued monkeys will be sent for rehabilitation at the Phupha Man National Park in Khon Kaen before they are released back to the wild.

Bonchuay, meanwhile, denied any knowledge that the boxes contained sedated monkeys, saying he had only been paid 5,000 baht to drive the MPV from Saraburi to Udon Thani’s Phen district, which is just 10km from the Lao border.

He said that while he was driving, two men whom he only knew as Rung and Non kept calling him continuously. He said he did not know whether these two were owners of the monkeys and that this is the first time had been hired for this job.

Police said initial investigation shows that this operation may be run by the same people who were behind a similar smuggling attempt in July last year.

Police had stopped a car on Mitraphap Road in Udon Thani’s Muang district, rescued 50 macaques and arrested three suspects. They are believed to be part of a gang that has been buying monkeys from Chonburi, Lopburi and Ratchaburi and smuggling them to Laos.

Police said the monkeys are first smuggled to Laos before being sent to other countries like the US and China for use in laboratories. The monkeys are believed to be used for producing stem cells or testing vaccines. Older monkeys are usually sold for meat.

It is believed that the going rate for four to six-month-old monkeys is 5,000 baht each, while older monkeys are bought by weight at about 600 to 700 baht per kilogram.

In February, police arrested two suspects for trying to capture long-tailed masques in Nakhon Sawan and rescued 11 monkeys that had been tranquilised. Two of the rescued monkeys died later.

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Thailand , police , macaques , smuggle


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