11 July 2024

High-profile fugitive Chaowalit Thongduang, aka “Sia Pang Nanode,” was arrested in Indonesia on Monday, ending seven months on the run that embarrassed Thai authorities, especially the police.

He may be wondering how Thai authorities, in cooperation with Indonesia, were eventually able to locate and arrest him in Bali.

A Thai anti-narcotic source, who took part in the operation, said that it was Chaowalit’s Indonesian girlfriend who leaked information about his whereabouts.

“Chaowalit assaulted that Indonesian girlfriend after a serious argument. She suffered some injuries, so she alerted the police in Bali. That allowed us to confirm Chaowalit’s location,” he said.

The Indonesian girlfriend, whose name was withheld, was among 4 or 5 partners the fugitive had. After Chaowalit escaped from Thailand late last year, he travelled directly to Indonesia and stayed with the woman in an apartment.

Chaowalit, 38, was catapulted into the media spotlight when he absconded from a state-run hospital, after being transferred there from prison in October last year.

He had initially sought dental treatment but was admitted to the hospital after appearing to collapse. Instead of being transported back to Nakhon Si Thammarat Prison, his shackles were removed, and he simply walked out of the hospital without being challenged.

A manhunt involving hundreds of police officers scoured the Banthad mountains, spanning the southern provinces of Phatthalung, Trang, and Satun, where Chaowalit was believed to be hiding. They finally traced him to a mountain hideout in Trang on November 8th, but he escaped after a gun battle with the police.

Six weeks after he snuck out of the hospital, Thailand’s most-wanted man was still on the run, taunting authorities in the process.

The same source revealed that during his escape, Chaowalit always travelled with one of his numerous girlfriends.

The Thai authorities, led by Shane Kanchanapach, deputy director-general of the Corrections Department, travelled to Indonesia after receiving tip that Chaowalit had been staying in Medan for quite some time. The team comprised representatives from the anti-narcotics office, police and Justice Ministry.

The source said the investigators learned that, before the fugitive was arrested in Thailand last year, he had travelled to Medan three times, and a female police sergeant, who was arrested as an accomplice, travelled with women for Chaowalit.

That was why the investigators focused on Chaowalit’s relationships with women, which ultimately led to his arrest.

“Pang Nanode can escape an army of armed police and soldiers in Thailand, but he was brought down by women,” the source said.