Thai military, police kidnap gang thought to be prolific

Police have cracked down on an extortion gang allegedly led by senior military and police officers, who abused their positions of power and influence to take Chinese businessmen hostage and demand ransoms.

Key members of the gang are high-ranking security officials, including MajGeneral Charoon Ampa, who works at the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters, and Pol Lt Colonel Nattakrit Yuttaya.

The gang was exposed after the Chinese owner of Kanta Group Thailand Co Ltd, known as Surachai sae Yang, lodged a complaint with authorities that the gang raided his firm on July 14 and forced him to pay two million baht (RM257,000) protection money.

The initial demand was 20 million baht (RM2.58mil) but the amount came down following negotiations, Pol Maj-General Surachet Hakpan, who heads the police forces Patrol and Special Operation Division, said yesterday.

According to Surachet, Pol Lt Colonel Nattakrit claimed to have been a member of the special patrol division, widely known locally as 191 Police, when raiding the firm on July 14 with eight other men. Nattakrit, who worked at the time for the Economic Crime Suppression Division, has now been suspended pending investigation.

The men did not produce a search warrant but I let them in because they said they were officials who needed to conduct a search for the sake of national security, Songsak Wirojthavornkij, the manager of Kanta Group Thailand, said about the events of July 14.

He added that once inside the firm, the powerfully built men removed hard disks linked to the company’s CCTV system.

“They then forced me and Surachai to meet their boss,” Songsak said.

The meeting took place at a school in Bangkoks Don Muang district. The alleged boss is Maj-General Charoon of the supreme command office.

During the meeting, Songsak and Surachai were accused of using fake ID cards. Koh Teck Chuan, the only foreign suspect in the gang, then told Surachai in Chinese that his boss wanted 20 million baht as protection money. Nattakrit assured him the gang would not bother them again if they agreed to pay, he said.

Police now have clear evidence to prove that the gang was involved in four to five such cases of kidnap and extortion, a stream of alleged victims of the gang began turning up at Khrok Khram Police Station requesting information about their perpetrators, Pol Maj Gen Surachet Hakpal, chief of the Patrol and Special Operation Division, said yesterday.

Police are encouraging those who think they have been cheated by the gang to visit Khrok Khram police with more information on their story, he said. — The Nation/Asia News Network

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