Tiger smuggler in Thailand surrenders

BANGKOK, Feb 1, 2008 (AFP) – A Thai man accused of trafficking tiger and leopard carcasses as well as hundreds of live pangolins has turned himself over to authorities, police said Friday. The Thai navy raided the trafficking operation on the Laos border late Tuesday and retrieved the carcasses of six tigers and five leopards, plus 275 live pangolins.

Authorities have been searching for a group of men who fled the raid on the Mekong River in northeastern Thailand.

One man wanted in connection with the trafficking ring, Samai Pimtha, 36, turned himself into local police on Thursday near the Lao border, an official said.

Authorities were speaking with the family of a second suspect, Watthana Porkachang, 35, to encourage him to do the same, police Colonel Chaiyat Saithin told AFP.

Samai has been charged with illegal possession of endangered animal carcasses.

Samai told police that he and Watthana had been hired to transport the animals, and were paid 50,000 baht (1,500 dollars) per trip to the border, Chaiyat said.

Police were still investigating the trafficking ring, which they believe was smuggling animals from Southeast Asia into China.

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