By Thanongsak Supakarn
The drugs were smuggled from Myanmar into Thailand en route to Malaysia, Provincial Police Region 8 chief Lt-General Thesa Siriwatho told a press conference on Monday.
A car occupied by Pethai Raknim, 33, Natthapol Reonthaisong, 31, and Panupong Charanpong, 31, was stopped at a police checkpoint on Phetchkasem Highway in Tambon Khao Chairat. But Natthapol ran out of the car, dropping his driver's licence, while the other two suspects sped off in the car.
Police who gave chase later found the abandoned car in a rubber plantation in the same tambon and four large packages of 496,000 yaba pills under a nearby tree. A pistol with seven bullets was also found in the car.
After launching a manhunt, police apprehended Pethai at one place then arrested Natthapol along with Borisut Saengthong, 25, who had arrived in a truck to pick him up at another location.
Another team of police arrested Panupong in a car driven by Sathorn Buakaew, 49. Front-seat passenger Siriporn Charanpong, 25, was also detained.
Pethai and Panupong allegedly confessed to police that they were hired to transport the drugs from Ratchaburi to Phatthalung in exchange for Bt500,000, while the other four suspects were travelling in the gang's other two leading vehicles. They were initially charged with having illicit drugs in their possession with intent to sell.