RAYONG — Rayong’s top police commander was removed from active duty on Monday after revelations that an illegal gambling den in the province was responsible for a cluster of coronavirus outbreak – though he insisted it was not classified as a gambling den.
At least 85 cases of coronavirus were found in the eastern province of Rayong in recent days. Health authorities said most of them were traced back to the suspected casino near the provincial bus terminal. However, when the police raided the scene yesterday, all they could find inside was empty windowless rooms lined with wallpapers.
Police immediately came to the conclusion that it wasn’t a casino.
“We inspected this venue following rumors on social media and found no gambling activities,” Rayong City police chief Phatsarut Watcharathonyothin said Sunday. “We believe it is only a warehouse. Rayong City police have always been strict on gambling. Over the past three months, we made 98 arrests.”
His assertion was backed by his commander, who said there are no casinos operating in the province – only “a place where people engaged in illegal gambling.”
“I insist there are no gambling dens in Rayong,” provincial police chief Paphatdet Ketphan said Sunday. “It was only a place where people engaged in illegal gambling.”
His explanation was apparently insufficient to convince the central police force. Paphatdet was removed and sent to an inactive post on Monday, pending an investigation. The order was signed by national police commissioner Suwat Chaengyodsuk, who chided Paphatdet for trying to mislead the public.
“Investigators said the gambling den has been operating for a month already,” Gen. Suwat said. “He [Paphatdet] couldn’t say it like that. He must be responsible for what happened.”
Rayong Gov. Channa Ieamsang also said on Sunday that all of the 49 local transmissions discovered on that day were linked to the gambling den. He urged those who visited the venue to come forward and get tested for coronavirus.
“I’m concerned that the virus will spread since many people don’t want to disclose their travel history to the gambling den,” Channa said.
Contradicting police’s assertion, the gambling den’s location was even listed on Google Map (category: “a sports club”). Security cameras were also visible on Google Street View photos said to be taken in July, though they somehow disappeared when the police entered the premises.
A similar feat of verbal gymnastics was attempted by the police back in August, when senior police officers refused to admid that the gambling den in Bangkok where four people were shot dead was indeed a gambling den.