TAK — Under heavy rain, police waved over Sanchai Tongkapurana’s van at a checkpoint near the Thai-Myanmar border. Inside: legal Myanmar migrants. But in the trunk: thousands of baby turtles.

Police seized a total of 4,546 illegally smuggled turtles and tortoises from Sanchai on Tuesday night near Baan Huay Hin Fon village in Mae Sot district.

Hidden among luggage in the van were four boxes glued shut but poked with air holes. Police cracked them open to find green net sacks full of turtle hatchlings.

The turtles included 75 common snapping turtles, 586 Indian roofed turtles and 3,885 red-eared sliders.

Both red-eared sliders and Indian roofed turtles are common pets, although the sliders are a known invasive species. The turtles were found in a weak state from being crowded together.

Also in the boxes were bags filled with water containing 35 living snakehead murrel fish.

Police had been tipped off that animals would be smuggled in from Myanmar. Sanchai, 44, has been apprehended for further questioning.

Turtles in Thailand are continually smuggled to be sold either as pets or for dubious merit-making. 

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