As he and the other six people who surrendered today to the Royal Thai Navy stepped out of the van in the grounds of the police station, people ran to him shouting encouraging words. Some wept. Others gave him roses or garlands of marigolds. Pian beamed and muttered, “Okay, okay.”
Inside the police station, however, there was a much more frigid reception as the one woman and six men were invited up to the fourth floor of the building, to a large room with tables piled with computers and boxes of documents – evidence seized last Thursday.
There was also a safe and piles of cash.
In the room, too, waited Pol Maj Gen Paween Pongsirin, head of the task force that began months ago to amass evidence against those believed to be running mafia taxi activities on the island..
Gen Paween told the assembly, “After our action on August 28, which involved police, the Navy, and the Revenue Department, we coped all the hard disks we found at Pisona Co [the Keesin family business] These have been collected by the technology police. Other evidence will be shown to the medias today.
“Plus there are the three safes [which have not been opened yet]. All three safes are very important for us. All vehicle, too, will be investigated. That is the task of the Anti Money Laundering Office [AMLO].
“Today, all the suspects will be charged with acting like ‘Mafia’, which is against the law. Then the investigation will go on to look for other people involved.
“Tomorrow, the Director of the Revenue Department will check all evidences to see if Pisona has paid tax correctly. If we find evidence of money laundering then additional charges will be laid against the suspects.”
Former Chalong Police Chief Pol Col Saman Chainarong, now commander of the Region 8 police investigators, explained, “We went to check five places – Pian’s home, the Patong Bay Resotel, the Patong Bay Garden, Pisona Co and Hollywood Patong Discotheque.
“We found documents and safes, two of which we could not move here. We will invite the suspects to help us check these two safes soon.”
Gen Paween then showed media a document found in Pian’s house which appeared to be a list of payments to be collected every month from at least a couple of dozen businesses in the Patong area.
When Pian tried to make remarks to an impromptu press conference in the evidence room, Gen Paween cut him off. “All evidence was found in the houses and hotels [belonging to the suspects]. We have to give officers time to check it all.
“We have to give suspects a chance to speak at some point, but not now. This is not a time for officers to be questioned [by the suspects]. What I mean is, this is a time for suspects to answer questions, not ask them.”
He then told the suspects to stand up one by one and introduce themselves to others in the room.
After that, he said, “We will leave all the suspects in the cells while we go for lunch and then in the afternoon we will begin questioning them.”
Gen Paween was asked by the press how long the list of payments from Patong businesses, which he had shown earlier to the press, had been in use.
“I have no idea. The details still have to be investigated. I showed you this because I want people to know about it.”
Asked whether the targets of Thursday’s raids had been alerted that the police were coming, Gen Paween said, “You can see the signatures of the house owners on all the evidence we collected.”
How much money was found? Gen Paween answered, “B376,975. But, this is not all money we expect to find. There are three safes we have not been able to open, and we don’t yet know who has the keys.”
Several computers were seized during the raids on Thursday and Gen Pawen explained that the contents of the hard drives would be examined police computer experts, and then after that by officers from the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO).
Asked if Pian and the others would be allowed bail soon, Gen Paween answered, “I cannot tell you. First we need to question them because there are many things to check.”
Asked how long the questioning would take, he said, “I have no idea because the interrogators are not here at the moment; they have other work.”
Asked whether the suspects could apply for bail, he said, “That’s their right. But according to Thai law the decision is up to the [provincial] commander.
He hinted that not all those who were arrested will see the inside of the court room. Particularly in the case of those arrested for involvement in the mob that blocked all roads in Patong on March 4, probably only two or three people would be charged, he said.
He added that in the afternoon one of the two remaining players yet to face him would arrive back in Phuket. “We will start to question Preechawut [Prap] Keesin this afternoon after he arrives [from Bangkok].”
The press conference over, Gen Paween escorted the arrestees down to the cells where they had to give up their wallets and other contents of their pockets, along with their belts, before being locked in the police cells.
Nitat Prasertnatikul, lawyer for Prap Keesin, said he would apply for his client to be released on bail within 48 hours.
One suspect has yet to report to police: Adichart Tinkohyao from the Baan Suan Taxi Queue.