RAYONG — Police on Thursday said they arrested the owner of a gambling den responsible for a major coronavirus cluster in the eastern region – nearly two months after the outbreak began.
Somchai Jutikitdet was arrested at his home in Rayong City early this morning and charged with organizing a gambling operation. The province logged 580 cases of infection since the new wave of outbreak surfaced in December, most of which were traced by health officials to the casino near the provincial bus terminal allegedly run by Somchai.
The authorities faced widespread backlashes for their failure to close down the illegal gambling dens, even as legitimate businesses were instructed to shut down amid the outbreak. National police commissioner Suwat Chaengyodsuk insisted that today’s arrest was not meant to be any damage control.
“Police are not making this arrest because we have been pressured,” Gen. Suwat said. “We are doing our work. Although sometimes we cannot please everyone, please know that we are doing our best.”
Police commandos raided Somchai’s home at dawn and found evidence linking to gambling operations inside, according to the police. Arrest warrants were also issued to four other suspects under Somchai’s network, though they are still at large, Gen. Suwat said.
“Somchai remains silent at the moment. He neither confesses nor denies the allegations,” the police commissioner said. “We will investigate their bank accounts to seek more suspects.”
The illegal casino – which was even listed on Google Maps – was previously identified by the local police force as a “warehouse” after they searched the venue and found no trace of gambling activities.
The top police boss apparently did not buy their explanation, which was ridiculed widely on social media. Suwat later signed an order transferring several high ranking officials in the province to an inactive post in late December for their failure to shut down gambling dens operating under their jurisdiction.
Thailand reported 201 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, bringing up the country’s total tally to 24,104, according to the government’s pandemic response center.