Thai smuggling ring tied to prince?
BANGKOK, Thailand – The purge of the family and allies of former Princess Srirasmi Akharapongpreecha is nearing completion, with at least 22 of them arrested so far, 17 of those charged with lèse-majesté, or misusing the name of the royal family.
Most of those arrested are connected to a vast smuggling ring that dealt in everything from cigarettes to oil. Pongpat Chavapan, Srirasmi’s uncle and the former head of the Central Investigation Bureau, has been arrested for leading the ring. Those involved, according to authorities in Bangkok, were claiming a royal connection to justify their demands, using the name of Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, the crown prince and eventual heir to the Thai throne .
But according to reports circulating widely in Bangkok, those royal connections were real. The individuals arrested were said to be using Vajiralongkorn’s name with his full knowledge, and the prince was said to be receiving a river of money from the illegal trade. Vajiralongkorn has long been known as Sia-O, the word “Sia” a nickname for Chinese-Thai gangsters. The “O” was a veiled reference to the prince’s royal name.
Thai politics being what they are, however, the reports may well be emanating from the Privy Council headed by Prem Tinsulanonda in an effort to discredit the prince. Prem and other members of the Privy Council, which provides advises the king on matters of state, detest the prince because he appears to be simply uncontrollable.
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