Ninth suspect in Chinese-kidnapping gang surrenders

Pol Maj Gen Surachet Hakpal, commander of the Patrol and Special Operations Division, elaborates on the crime at the Khok Khram police station in Bangkok last Friday. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

A former soldier turned himself in on Tuesday after he was suspected of joining a major general’s alleged extortion gang targeting Chinese business people in Thailand. He denied involvement.

Thitikorn Chuen-ura, 38, of Buri Ram province, showed up at the Khok Khram police station Tuesday afternoon. He was wanted for joining the gang allegedly abducting and extorting about 50 million baht from Chinese business people.

Mr Thitikorn said he and four associates had provided bodyguard services and Uthit Kokaew had hired him to protect his people who had taken a Chinese businessman to meet Maj Gen Jaroon Ampha in Don Muang district. He received 2,000 baht and his junior colleagues got 1,500 baht each for the service.

Mr Thitikorn said his group had known nothing about the alleged abduction because on the way Mr Uthit’s people had talked to the Chinese businessman in Chinese which he and his associates did not understand.

Learning his four associates had been arrested, Mr Thitikorn said he was able to Mr Uthit twice, seeking help for his associates, but could not reach Mr Uthit afterwards.

Meeting Mr Thitikorn at the Khok Khram police station, Pol Maj Gen Surachet Hakpal, commander of the Patrol and Special Operations Division, said Mr Uthit had yet to keep his recent promise to surrender.

The commander also said that investigators had not found any evidence to confirm the group of Maj Gen Jaroon had been involved in any informal lending business in Don Muang as earlier reported.

Maj Gen Jaroon is the development project coordination chief of the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters. Four others are sergeants at the headquarters’ military police unit.

The sixth suspect was identified as Pol Lt Col Natthakrit Yutthaya, a former investigator with the Economic Crime Suppression Division. Two more suspects are Opas Sriya and Singaporean Ko Teck Chuan. All of them were arrested.

Mr Uthit was the 10th and only suspect at large.

The Chinese businessman that Mr Thirikorn, a former military police sergeant, mentioned was identified as Surachai sae Yang, an executive of New Gen Airways and Kanta Group Thailand.

He was reportedly abducted from his office on Soi Nuan Chan in Bung Kum district in July, demanded to pay 20 million baht and then released after giving 2 million baht.

Police earlier said that the group had shaken people down on at least 10 occasions, demanding a combined 50 million baht or more from their victims, and usually targeted Chinese business people who invested in Thailand.

The Chinese were the target because some of them allegedly held fake Thai ID cards or business documents, or were in the process of seeking them.

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