Police chief says oil smugglers funding insurgency

National Police Office commissioner said oil smugglers may be funding southern insurgency and warned them to keep off otherwise they face seizure of their assets.

The commissioner of the National Police Officer Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaeo’s disclosure came after the police investigating Wednesday’s lethal attack in Thung Yangdaeng district of Pattani that killed five police officers in charge of oil smuggling crackdown in the South.

According to forensic and local police, they have discovered evidence  that the group of assailants who shot and killed 5 officers in Pattani was part of an oil smuggling ring. Apart from smuggling oil from across the border and committing other various crimes, there is suspicion that they could also be funding the southern insurgency, they said.

Pol Gen Adul said that the attack in Pattani was linked with oil smuggling which is rampant in the area and warned them off tough crackdown which included supporting insurgency and seeking cooperation from anti money laundering office to impound and seize their assets.

Police said that in addition to smuggling oil, there is also evidence that the ring is also involved with drug trafficking, human trafficking and car theft. Most worrying is the fact that the ring could be involved in these activities in order to raise finances to fuel the southern insurgencies.

In the past eight months since December last year and up to August 2013, more than 4,800 arrests related to oil smuggling were made. This is an average of 500 arrests per month. So far a total of 3.4 million liters of oil have been confiscated, valued at 106 million Baht. Comparing arrests figures to last year’s number, the arrest of smugglers has more than doubled.

The highest number of arrests has been in the 9th district located in Songkhla and Pattani as both are coastal towns.  The oil is smuggled from neighboring countries either by land or sea. Trucks and fishing trawlers are then modified to carry a large amount of oil across the border.  The smugglers make a profit of about 10 baht per liter and investigators have stated that there are at least three large smuggling rings that operate within the southern region.

“The oil is smuggled from Malaysia where petrol is much cheaper. When arrests are made we further investigate the case and assets have been seized. We hope to completely stamp out the smuggling rings permanently,” said Pol Lt-Gen Sophon Pisutwong, head of the Police Southern Operation Center.

He added that  the increased number of arrests is mainly due to the fact that police are taking tougher action. A special investigation squadron consisting of 13 units has been set up to work with local law enforcers, the coast guard, the highway police and the Ministry of Energy.