The navy's Mekong peace-keeping operation unit intercepted a group of smugglers trying to take a truckload of dogs by boat across the river to Laos from Nakhon Phanom's Ban Phaeng district.

Capt Teerakiat Thong-aram, commander of the unit operating in Nakhon Phanom, said a team acting on a tip-off caught the smugglers in the act at Don Phaeng village in tambon Ban Phaeng about 4am.

They seized a six-wheeled truck loaded with 40 cages with about 800 dogs crammed into them as it was about to board a ferry waiting on the river bank.

One man was arrested. He was identified as Preecha Utthasri, 37, of Ban Phaeng district. Other members of the gang fled into the night.

About 100 empty cages were also found on the river bank. They were believed to have been used to transport at least 2,000 dogs to Vietnam via Laos previously and then returned to Thailand, but had not yet been collected, Capt Teerakiat said.

It was the second recent interception of smugglers trying to take dogs to Vietnam for use in exotic dishes in restaurants. On Dec 26, about 300 dogs were rescued by a navy team on the bank of the Mekong river at Ban Thalad in Ban Phaeng district. One man was arrested.

Nakhon Phanom deputy governor Somdee Khathayangyuen said smuggling gangs received a lot of orders for dogs during the New Year festival, when dog meat was very popular in Vietnam.

On Sept 25 last year, the Nakhon Phanom Court sentenced five members of a dog-smuggling gang to eight months and 10 days in prison each and fines ranging from 12,000 to 22,400 baht, before halving the penalties because they confessed.

The smugglers were caught with 2,000 dogs in Nakhon Phanom on Aug 11.

The rescued dogs were housed at a quarantine centre, but only about 700 of them survived while the rest succumbed to injuries and disease.

The Bangkok Post - January 12, 2012