Reports claims they may have holed up in an area under the influence of the United Wa State Army, also known as Red Wa, or the Lahu militia group, which are major suppliers of illicit drugs.
The murder of Warisara Klinjui, whose body parts were retrieved from a makeshift grave in Khon Kaen's Khao Suan Kwang district on May 25, has drawn much public attention.
Preeyanuch “Preaw” Nonwangchai, 24, Kawita “Earn” Ratchada, 25, and Apiwan “Jae” Sattayabundit, 28, are now wanted on charges of premeditated murder and concealing a body. But the trio immediately fled to Myanmar based on immigration records at a checkpoint in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district the day the body was found.
Two other suspects, Wasin Namprom, 22, and his girlfriend Jidarat Promkhun, 21, are already in police custody. Wasin was arrested at a guesthouse in Laos and handed over to Thai police on Tuesday. Jindarat was apprehended in Ubon Ratchathani.
Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) secretary-general, Sirinya Sitdhichai, said Thursday (June 1) there is a high chance the three fugitives are in remote Myanmar.
“Shelter may have been given to them there,” Mr Sirinya said. “It is possible that Ms Preeyanuch collected money from the drug trade for a boss, who remains unknown.”
The ONCB chief said authorities are using all means to locate and bring them to justice.
The ONCB officials are in touch with their Myanmar counterparts and are making use of the Safe Mekong Joint Operation to track them down, he said.
Thai army officials are also seeking cooperation with their counterparts through the Thailand-Myanmar Border Township Committee (TBC) while the Mae Sai police station are also working with police in Tachilek, a border town in eastern Myanmar, he said.
Sirinya said Preeyanuch’s name is in the ONCB’s drug offence database and the agency will examine the assets belonging to the woman and her relatives to determine whether they came from the illicit business.
Police earlier said Preeyanuch throttled Warisara, covered her head with a plastic bag and beat her to death after the victim was abducted in a rented Honda CRV. They were citing a confession by Wasin, who claims he drove the car.
The trio are now believed to hiding in an area under the control of the Red Wa or Lahu militant group after they were reportedly driven out of a karaoke bar in Tachilek on Sunday.
A security source earlier said Warisara was killed on the orders of a transnational drug network that operates on a small scale in Myanmar after she shared information with police implicating the syndicate and other narcotics rings in Khon Kaen.
However, Police Region 4 Deputy Commander Maj Gen Charoenwit Sriwanich said such reports were groundless and that the investigation has so far only linked them to small-scale local drug trafficking operations.
Her death may have resulted from a personal conflict after the victim informed police about their drug trafficking which led to the arrest of Preeyanuch’s husband, who is now in prison, police said.
Meanwhile, Chiang Rai immigration chief Ekkorn Bussababodin rejected reports that Myanmar authorities captured the three suspects Thursday.
He said authorities there only invited Watsak Sriwong, the owner of a spa-and-karaoke shop, and its manager, Jaturong Promthong, to speak with police. Some reports claim the three fugitives were planning to work there.
Mr Watsak is the owner of the white Ford pickup truck that transported the women across the border and Mr Jaturong was the driver, police said.
The three left Thailand using temporary border passes which permit a seven-day stay. Those expired on Wednesday.
Col Ekkorn said the suspects have violated Myanmar laws on illegal immigration, which means authorities there are able to arrest and prosecute them before deporting them.
Meanwhile, Preeyanuch’s older sister Prapasiri Somsri, 34, said her younger sibling video-called her from Tachilek asking her to take care of her 8-year-old son in the event of her death. She also asked her older sister to finish building a house for their mother.
Ms Prapasiri said her sister usually worked for karaoke bars overseas, including in Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong and Myanmar.
She said her sister wed in November 2015 but the man was arrested in a drug case one month later, which Ms Prapasiri said may have been the motive for the murder.
Police on Thursday took Wasin from a cell at Khon Kaen Provincial Court to the Khon Kaen Special Correctional Institution, where he started his 12-day detention.
The court also denied a bail request by Jidarat, seeing her as a flight risk.
Police said earlier Jidarat was not involved in the killing as CCTV footage of the vehicle used in the abduction showed she was not inside.
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