Authorities in Battambang province on Sunday charged two Thai nationals who were arrested on Friday with more than $7 million in suspected counterfeit U.S. notes, but released a Thai military commander apprehended with them, claiming he had nothing to do with the alleged crime.
Captain Chamras Pongsart, 52; Sub-Lieutenant Pramote Raisiri, 48; and Kittithamet Meethekulsawat, 47, a civilian, were arrested in Battambang’s Phnom Proek district while trying to exchange the counterfeit cash for real bills with undercover Cambodian officers, police said. The arrest came shortly after the trio crossed the O’Romduol border checkpoint.
Provincial deputy court prosecutor Heng Luy said Sub-Lt. Pramote and Mr. Kittithamet were both charged with transporting counterfeit currency and sent to pretrial detention.
“We already sent the case of the two Thais to an investigating judge and they are now in pretrial detention at the provincial prison,” Mr. Luy said.
“The two people will receive another charge if the judge thinks they are also guilty of circulating counterfeit currency, but [the suspects] told us they were just following orders from some people in Thailand,” he said.
Aun Hvay, head of the provincial police department’s serious crimes bureau, said authorities were still not certain whether the bills in their possession, all $100 notes, were in fact counterfeit.
“We do not yet know if the money is real or fake because we are waiting for the bank to check it,” he said.
Mr. Hvay said that the third suspect, Capt. Chamras, was released “because he was not involved with this case.”
“We trust him because he had documents to prove he was not involved,” he said, declining to explain what those documents were or answer further questions.
Deputy district police chief Sareth Viseth said all three Thai men were present while attempting to exchange the suspected fake $7,160,000 for $600,000 in real bills.
“Mr. Pongsart [Capt. Chamras] told us that the other two asked him to accompany them across the border to Cambodia but did not know that fake money was in the suitcase,” he said.
Mr. Viseth did not explain why the captain had accompanied the other two men into Cambodia.
The Bangkok Post on Sunday identified Capt. Chamras as the commander of Company 522 of the Thai military’s Marine unit and Sub-Lt. Pramote as a deputy chief of Thailand’s Internal Security Operations Command. The newspaper cites Thai Navy officials saying the two had been suspended from their positions and were wanted back in Thailand to be tried at home.