|In a scene reminiscent of a Bond movie, more than a hundred police commandos took part in a dramatic raid on a cruise ship operating an illegal casino off Pattaya yesterday morning, arresting gamblers on board.|
Two helicopters and three boats belonging to the police and the Harbour Department were involved in the operation in the Gulf of Thailand. Most of the police involved were from the sinister sounding Crime Suppression Division. More than twenty helicopter-borne commandos slid down ropes onto the roof deck of the Olvia, a Ukrainian-registered, 16,000-tonne ship, police said.
There were sixty-four crew members, most of them Ukrainian, with a number of Cambodians and Thais. Bt10 million in cash and Bt2 billion worth of gambling chips were seized.
After boarding the ship, commandos waved their guns at the gamblers, forcing them to lie face down. Some startled gamblers ran to their cabins and locked themselves in. Police said it took 'a long while' to persuade them to surrender.
Passengers released without charge have criticised the Thai authorities for their somewhat over the top display of force. 'At first I thought the ship was being attacked by pirates,” said one. “Police waved their guns at tourists. Are they mad? Gambling is not a serious offence.'
All far too exciting. In true Bond style the operator of the floating casino remains at large. Presumably in his underground lair.