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Indonesia arrests ‘most wanted’ Thai fugitive

Indonesia arrests ‘most wanted’ Thai fugitive
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JAKARTA: Indonesian police have arrested one of Thailand’s “most wanted” fugitives who was on the run after escaping custody in Thailand last year, a senior police official said Sunday (Jun 2).

Chaowalit Thongduang, 37, was arrested on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Thursday, said Wahyu Widada, the head of Indonesia’s criminal investigation agency.

“The fugitive who was secured is one of the most wanted fugitives by Thailand authorities because (he) had committed many crimes before eventually fleeing to Indonesia to hide,” Wahyu said.

Chaowalit, also known by the moniker “Pang Na Node”, was wanted on multiple charges including murder and drug-related offences, according to Phanurat Lukboon, secretary general of Thailand’s narcotics control board.

He entered Indonesia in December 2023 after a 17-hour journey by a speed boat, Wahyu said.

He added that police seized several pieces of evidence, including a fake identity card and birth certificate under the name of Sulaiman, which was allegedly used by Chaowalit, and an Indonesian bank account book.

Head of the National Police Criminal Investigation Agency (BARESKRIM) Wahyu Widada (left) shakes hands with Secretary-General of Thailand’s Office of the Narcotics Control Board Phanurat Lukboon during a press conference following the arrest in Bali of Thai fugitive Chaowalit Thongduang, who escaped from a hospital in Thailand while serving his sentence in 2023, at the BARESKRIM office in Jakarta on Jun 2, 2024. (Photo: AFP/Yasuyoshi Chiba)

Phanurat thanked Indonesia for arresting Chaowalit, adding that Thai authorities are further investigating the case.

“When Chaowalit comes here, there must be someone who helped him enter Indonesia. Now we are investigating to know who is the mastermind behind all this,” Phanurat said.

Chaowalit escaped from a hospital in southern Nakhon Si Thammarat province while he was serving a 20-year sentence.

In December last year, the Bangkok Post reported that he had been sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment in an attempted murder case dating back to 2019.

Hundreds of police officers were mobilised to recapture him, in an operation reported to have cost around 10 million baht (UA$271,800).

Chaowalit is expected to be extradited to Thailand on Tuesday, said Krishna Murti, who heads the Indonesian police’s international relations division.

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