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"Most wanted" Thai fugitive arrested on Bali after 17-hour speedboat escape

One of Thailand's most wanted fugitives will be escorted home on a Thai air force plane after being arrested on Indonesia's tourist island of Bali following months on the run in connection with several killings and drug trafficking charges in his homeland, officials said Monday.

Chaowalit Thongduang escaped from detention in Thailand while being treated at a hospital. When he was detained Thursday, he was using a fake Indonesian national identity card which he received shortly after arriving in Indonesia's northernmost province of Aceh in December after a 17-hour speedboat trip from India, said Wahyu Widada, head of the Indonesian National Police's Criminal Investigation Department.

"The fugitive who was secured is one of the most wanted fugitives by Thailand authorities because (he) had committed many crimes before eventually fleeing to Indonesia to hide," Widada said.

Indonesia Thailand Fugitive
In this undated image made from video provided by Kompas TV, Indonesian police officers escort Thai fugitive Chaowalit Thongduang in Jakarta, Indonesia. / AP

Chaowalit --  also known by the moniker "Pang Na Node" -- was arrested in a raid at his apartment in Badung regency in Bali. Authorities seized four cellphones from him along with several fake identity documents.

"We are still investigating local residents who helped issue Chaowalit's fake identity," Widada said.

Phanurat Lukboon, secretary general of Thailand's narcotics control board, said that police seized several pieces of evidence, including a fake identity card and birth certificate under the name of Sulaiman, which was allegedly used by Chaowalit, and an Indonesian bank account book.  

"When Chaowalit comes here, there must be someone who helped him enter Indonesia. Now we are investigating to know who is the mastermind behind all this," Phanurat said.  

Thai Minister of Justice Tawee Sodsong, who traveled to Indonesia to meet with Chaowalit, said he will be flown on a military plane Tuesday to Thailand, where he is wanted in the murder or attempted murder of police officers and others and drug trafficking.

Tawee said Chaowalit praised the authorities for being able to trace him after he fled through several countries.

In December last year, the Bangkok Post reported that he had been sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment in an attempted murder case dating back to 2019.

Hundreds of police officers were mobilized to recapture him, in an operation reported to have cost around 10 million baht ($271,816).

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said he was confident that the legal system which apprehended Chaowalit could bring him to justice.

Indonesia and Thailand signed an extradition agreement in 1978.

AFP contributed to this report.

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