Senior army, police officers charged with extortion

Eight of 10 suspects, including a high-ranking military officer and a police investigator, have been arrested for the alleged kidnapping of a businessman and 20 million baht extortion demand last month.

The two officers are Maj Gen Jaroon Arpha, attached to the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters, and Pol Lt Col Natthakrit Yutthaya, an investigator with the Economic Crime Suppression Division’s sub-division 5.

The eight other men were identified as Saowadet Sakkittinan, Aphiwat Srinaprom, Thepphithak Ratthanee, Songwut Thiengtham, Opas Sriya, Uthit Kokaew, Thitikorn Chuenura, all Thai nationals, and Ko Tek Chuan, of Singapore.

Eight of them were detained. Mr Uthit and Mr Thitikorn remain at large. All have been charged with extortion and trespass.  

The eight detainees were  taken to a police press briefing at Khok Khram police station in Bangkok’s Bung Kum district on Friday. 

Surachet Hakpal, chief of the Patrol and Special Operation Division (PSOD), said an investigation was launched after Surachai Sae-yang, proprietor of New Gen Airways and Kanta Group (Thailand) Co Ltd, both airline business, sought help from the PSOD last month.

It was alleged a group of nine men, four in military camouflage and five in civilian clothing, intruded on Kanta Group in Soi Nuan Chan 34 in Bung Kum district in search of Mr Surachai on July 14.

Pol Lt Col Natthakrit, allegedly claimed he was a plainclothes officer attached to the PSOD and the Crime Suppression Division, and cited security reasons to make a search of the company without a warrant.

The gang asked for Mr Surachai’s civil registration and ID card and said they were counterfeit documents. They told Mr Surachai he had to meet their superior at the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) in Don Muang district.

The businessman was taken there in a Lexus car with Bangkok registration allegedly driven by Mr Ko. Two men in military clothing accompanied them.

Mr Surachai feared for his safety so he ordered Jeerawat Lilitnatsiri, his company driver, to follow him in another vehicle.

Instead of going to the Isoc office, Mr Surachai was allegedly taken to meet Maj Gen Jaroon at Donmuang Chaturachinda School in Don Muang district. Maj Gen Jaroon allegedly said Mr Surachai’s document’s were fake and demanded 20 million baht as protection money from him.

Mr Surachai said he negotiated the ransom payment down to two million baht. He ordered his driver to return to the company to bring one million baht to Mr Opas at a PTT station on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road.

Mr Surachai said he was then released and later transferred another one million baht to Mr Opas’s bank account on July 17.

Mr Surachai then decided to seek help from Pol Maj Gen Surachet, who told him to lay a complaint at Khon Kram police station. 

Mr Surachai said he also petitioned Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, presenting him with evidence, because the case involved two high-ranking state officers, resulting in the arrests.

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