LT-GENERAL Manas Khongpaen, a special adviser to the Army and a suspected ringleader for trading in Rohingya and other migrants, has been an avid bullfighting bettor since he was young.
He does not own a pen or even one bull, but plans to in the near future.
Bullfighting is a popular sport in the South.
This widely known fact seems to be acting in his favour. He has said in a television interview that the Bt14 million (S$559,140) in question came from his bullfighting habit - not profits from human trafficking.
The money transactions were documented in bank slips, found at a suspect's home, showing Manas as the recipient.
A source said Manas was among a group of hard-charging punters whose stakes reached between Bt1 million and Bt2 million on each bout. These people frequently gambled at several dens based in Nakhon Si Thammarat - Manas' home province - Phatthalung and Songkhla.
Manas began wagering heavily on bulls when he was based in Ranong. Later he served as the commander of a military mission to intercept migrants both on land in the southern provinces and at in the Andaman Sea off the coast. The officer has not owned a pen but had a few of his bulls reared by people in the bullfighting arena close to him.
At a recent party, he was heard telling guests that he was planning to open bullpens and fighting venues in Nakhon Si Thammarat, after being transferred away from Chumphon and Songkhla, not long after the mission was completed.
Manas has been charged with conspiring to traffic humans and persons under 15, assisting illegal entrants, restraining individuals' freedom and demanding ransom through abductions in seven southern Thai provinces, Malaysia and Bangladesh from November 2012 to last month.