War against influential Mafia-style rackets begins


By M. VEERA PANDIYAN

THE THAI Government launched its war against Mafia-style rackets led by influential people yesterday, amid heightened security for Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra following a death threat. 

More than 1,000 security personnel ringed the Royal Cliff Beach Resort in Pattaya where the Thai Cabinet met to discuss the launch of the campaign and problems faced by the SARS-hit tourism industry. 

The firing of the first salvo against the “dark forces” from Pattaya is symbolic as it is the base of Somchai Khunpluem, an influential figure referred to as “Godfather of Chon Buri.” 

Somchai, who is also known as “Kamnan Poh” is a wealthy businessman and father of a Cabinet minister. 

Arrested recently on suspicion of being the mastermind behind the murder of another local influential figure, he is currently free on bail. 

Thaksin said the crackdown against those who continued to be involved in illegal activities would begin today, warning that the guilty would face severe consequences, irrespective of how powerful they were. 

He said senior officials in the military, police and civil service who colluded with underworld figures would also face the music. 

The Cabinet already has a list of people from 15 groups involved in running crime and protection syndicates. 

In a written note, the US Government warned last week that Thaksin’s life could be in danger from foreign drug rackets following the government’s recently-ended war against local drug dealers.  

More than 2,000 people were shot dead during the three-month campaign that ended on March 31. 

The threat has been taken seriously by the National Security Council and Thai intelligence agencies. 

“We are not taking any chances,” said Police Special Branch chief Lt General Jumpol Mungmai on Sunday. 

Police are still investigating a previous death threat from drug dealers in the north who allegedly offered 80 million baht (RM7.2mil) to hitmen to kill Thaksin in retaliation for the losses they suffered. 

·Fifty wet markets in Bangkok do not meet basic sanitary and safety requirements and 12 of them have been classified as “filthy and infested with flies, cockroaches and rats.” 

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s environmental health division has given the operators of the 12 markets a month to improve conditions or face tough action. 

Its director Watchara Phromcharoen said besides the risk of losing their licences, the operators could be fined 10,000 baht (RM903), jailed six months or both. 

They were told to ensure that the building structure is strong, provide clean and clear pathways between stalls, clean goods, proper wastewater drainage and effective garbage disposal. 

Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said many food samples collected from 387 wet markets throughout the country were found contaminated with hazardous chemicals used as preservatives.  

  • Another perspective from The Nation, a partner of Asia News Network. 

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