Bodies of the macaques lie by a dirt road in Rayong in eastern Thailand. Police suspect a farmer may have poisoned the animals. Photo: YouTube screen grab.

Police in Thailand are looking for people who may have poisoned 17 monkeys found dead in Rayong province, east of Bangkok.

The bodies of 17 macaques were discovered on Wednesday by residents in Baan Yaang Ngam, a village in Klaeng district, several hours east of the capital.

Police said on Thursday they suspect foul play as partly eaten fruit was also found near the dead animals, Khao Sod reported.

“The monkeys were just eating fruit, like they do naturally. There are watermelon peels nearby with monkey teeth marks, so I suspect poison,” Captain Sommhai Wanthong of Klaeng police was quoted as saying. “I counted 17 dead macaques.”

More bodies were reportedly found on Thursday.

The officer said they were looking for the person suspected to have poisoned the animals and planned to conduct autopsies on the monkeys to establish their cause of death.

People convicted of animal cruelty can face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 40,000 baht (US$1,250).

Local officials said the area had up to 300 macaques and some had come into conflict with people as they sometimes lacked food.

However, the animals had fled the area since the alleged poisoning occurred.

It was suspected that a farmer whose crops had been eaten by the monkeys may have been responsible for the incident.