Three Thai nationals, including a military commander, were arrested Friday by Battambang provincial police for being in possession of more than $7 million in counterfeit U.S. dollars, police said.
Battambang police had been investigating the trio for more than a month and lured them into the sting with an undercover operative acting as a currency trader. They were arrested in Phnom Proek district shortly after crossing the O’Romduol border checkpoint.
“On Friday, police detained three Thais—Chit Kit 47, Pla Mot, 48, and Chamrat Vongsa, 51—in Phnom Proek district’s O’Romduol commune, and we confiscated $7,160,000 in U.S. currency,” said Song Sopheak, Phnom Proek district police chief.
The entire haul was in $100 bills.
“We have been investigating them for more than one month and we used our spy to make an appointment with them to change money so we could detain them,” he said, adding that none of the three were carrying passports.
Mr. Sopheak said the suspects had been sent to the provincial police station in Battambang City for questioning.
He said that through their investigation, police had established that exchanging counterfeit U.S. dollars was a steady business for the trio.
Chet Vanny, deputy provincial police chief, confirmed that one of the three detained men was a high-ranking Thai military officer posted near the Thai-Cambodian border.
“Chamrat Vongsa, one Thai man among the three detained, is the commander of the Thai military’s Company 522, which is stationed along the frontline of the border,” Mr. Vanny said.
“We detained them following our investigations but I can not tell you more about the process of the police investigation,” he added.
Battambang provincial governor Chan Sophal said the three Thais would face jail time if found guilty of trafficking counterfeit money.
“Police are questioning, so we will give them time to do their duty,” Mr. Sophal said, declining to comment further.
The Thai Embassy in Cambodia could not be reached for comment.
In January, a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces officer and his son-in-law were arrested for producing more than $50,000 worth of fake U.S. $100 banknotes in Battambang province.
Lieutenant Colonel Soy Vansak was arrested in Battambang City a day after his son-in-law, Tang Thearith, was thwarted as he attempted to use the fake bills at a local market in Poipet City.
Mr. Thearith was carrying 203 fraudulent $100 bills. The following day, he led police to a property in Battambang, where another $30,000 worth of counterfeit cash was discovered.