Gen Prawit corrected himself after being ridiculed in the media and by the public.
“I didn’t mean that gambling dens do not exist,” he said. “We all know that there are gambling dens but it is the duty of police to eradicate these illicit activities.”
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday set up a panel to probe illegal gambling venues and police yesterday announced the arrest of dozens of people linked to such dens in Bangkok.
Deputy Bangkok police chief Pol Maj Gen Piya Tawichai said 81 gamblers and 13 gambling hosts had been arrested in Chaeng Watthana.
The gambling hosts were each jailed for seven months and fined B15,000, while the gamblers were sentenced to 15 days in jail and fined B15,000.
Pol Maj Gen Piya also revealed that police had arrested one man, Amnuay Kiatdonmuang, at a house in Don Muang that was used as a gambling den. He has been charged with organising gambling activities and employing illegal migrant workers.
Pol Maj Gen Piya said Mr Amnuay was the owner of the premises and police were investigating whether he had been in contact with a group of 18 migrant workers, seven of whom had tested positive for COVID-19.
Another gambling den in the Pin Klao area was searched by police. It was exposed after two workers visiting Kanchanaburi tested positive for COVID-19 and told health officials they had been working at a gambling den in Pin Klao.
The building manager admitted to police the place had been used as a gambling establishment but said it had shut since before the pandemic, according to Pol Maj Gen Piya.
He insisted that police had been clamping down on gambling den owners and gamblers, citing the arrest of 16 people involved in a gambling den in Pin Klao in 2020 and the prosecution of 3,811 people in other gambling cases.
Pol Maj Gen Piya declined, however, to say how many gambling dens were still open in Bangkok, calling it classified information.
Meanwhile, the abbot of Wat Rangsi Sutthawat in Si Racha district, Chon Buri, is urging gamblers at two local dens to have COVID-19 tests. The province has witnessed a virus surge recently, many of the infections were linked to gambling dens.