Police have saved 88 macaques from being turned into dinner following a routine interception of a pickup truck believed to be stolen and bearing fake licence plates.
Crime Suppression Division (CSD) investigators and officers from the Si Maha Phot station in Prachin Buri had no idea that their operation on Thursday would end in such dramatic fashion.
Their mission for the day was to seize the stolen vehicle after investigators confirmed that the target was in the province.
“We only planned to seize a vehicle but it turned out we saved many macaques,” Pol Maj Gunjira Norrasan, a CSD officer who specialises in recovering stolen vehicles, told reporters in Bangkok after the operation.
Police found the targeted pickup driving along a road near the station in Si Maha Phot district. They gave chase and forced the driver to pull over. After they arrested driver Panupong Jusing, 25, a search of the truck’s covered bed revealed a shocking sight: 88 macaques alive in deteriorating condition in plastic cages, and another 14 dead.
Under interrogation, Mr Panupong said he had been paid 3,000 baht to transport the animals from Phichit to a client in Sa Kaeo, said CSD chief Pol Maj Gen Suwat Saengnoom. The animals would then be taken from the Thai border province to Cambodia.
The driver had made two successful deliveries previously before failing on the third attempt, according to a report by the CSD and Si Maha Phot police.
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The macaques were destined to be sold as exotic food in another country, Pol Maj Gen Suwat added.
Macaques are a protected animal under the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act.
Investigators are now trying to track more traffickers in Thailand behind the network. The Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division on Friday sought cooperation with the CSD and Si Maha Phot police to transfer the case to the agency.
Pol Maj Gen Pitak Uthaitham, chief of the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division, said officers would question the driver further in hopes of obtaining more information that could lead to further arrests.
Pol Maj Gen Suwat said arrest warrants would soon be issued for more suspects.
The macaques are being cared for at the Si Maha Phot police station.