A POLICE team which moved in on a gang of car smugglers in Nakhon Phanom province in the dead of the night last night seized a large motorized ferry and a pickup truck but all the gang members managed to escape, Matichon daily newspaper said today (May 3).
As police investigation revealed that a gang of car smugglers were about to smuggle a vehicle across to a neighboring country (Laos), Tha Uthen acting district chief Capt Phongsak Vethyawwong and Pol Col Thanat Chirathanakul led a police team to a pier in the middle of Baan Na Katha community and lay in wait there in the middle of the night.
At around 2.30 a,m. a large motorized ferry specially converted to carry vehicles cruised across Mekong River from the neighboring country and moored at this pier. Four people on the boat then put out wooden planks so that a vehicle could move on to the ferry.
Not long after a vehicle drove in and parked in front of a flight of stairs around which 10 men were hiding.
Just as police moved in on the gang, the pickup driver pressed the accelerator to get it on the ferry but it so happened that those aboard the ferry had already started the engine and moved a bit away which led to the pickup sinking into the river.
The smugglers panicked and those on the ferry jumped into Mekong river and swam in different directions while those on the river bank were also able to use the cover of darkness to escape.
An inspection showed that the ferry converted to carry vehicles is 12 meters long and 2 meters wide. It is built entirely of steel and fitted with a four-stroke diesel engine and priced around 300,000 baht.
Police had welded water pipes across the staircase to prevent smuggling at this pier but the smugglers had dismantled and reassembled them so that while they look the same they are not attached within and came be easily moved.
An investigation is underway as to who did this.
This pier was previously used to smuggle up to a hundred vehicles a month but tough police action led to the smugglers moving away. However they thought police were no longer watching the pier closely so moved back in.
Top: Nakhon Phanom police show the ferry they seized last night. Photo: Matichon