Prawit: military personnels allegedly involved in abduction won’t be protected

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said on Friday (Aug 11) a military officer attached to the Royal Thai Armed Force Headquarters (RTARF) accused of involving in the abduction of a Singaporean businessman for a ransom will not be protected and must face legal action according to the law.

Gen Prawit, who is also Defence Minister, was referring to Maj Gen Jaroon Ampha of the RTARF.

The alleged abduction occurred on July 14.  Shortly after noon on that day, nine men–four of them in camouflage military uniforms and others in civilian clothes–went in four cars to the office of Surachai Sae Yang, the owner of New Gen Airways and Kanta Group Thailand, in Soi Nuanchan 34.

Mr Surachai’s office

Claiming to be plain-clothes officers of the 191 Patrol and Special Operation Division and Crime Suppression Division (CSD), they conducted a security search on the office without showing a warrant.  After the search, they showed the domicile registration and identification card of Mr Surachai and said they were fake.

The nine then took Mr Surachai to see their “leader” at another place.  There, one of them said to Mr Surachai in Chinese, saying that their boss wanted 20 million baht protection money from him.

Mr Surachai bargained to reduce the ransom to 2 million baht and made an appointment for his relative to bring 1 million baht.  The money was handed over to Opas Sriya, a gang member, at a petrol station on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road.

The group then told Mr Surachai to transfer another 1 million baht to Mr Opas’ bank account on July 17 at 1pm.  The money transfer enabled police to get evidence in the extortion and warrants for the arrests of 10 suspects for trespassing and extortion.

The 10 suspects are: Maj Gen Jaroon Ampha, Pol Lt Col Nathakrit Yuttha, an officer of the Economic Crime Suppression Division (ECSD), Saowadet Sakkittinan, Apiwat Srinaprom, Theppitak Radthani, Songwut Thiangtham, Opas Sriya, Uthis Korkaew, Thitikorn Chuen-ura and Ko Teck Chuan, a Singaporean.

Of the 10, four are navy soldiers, one police officer of the ECSD, and one RTARF officer.

The police have arrested eight suspects. Two others — Uthis Korkaew and Thitikorn Chuen-ura — have fled to the South.

Five suspects who are military officers applied for bail, using cash and other assets as collateral. They were granted bail because they have permanent addresses and are not flight risks.

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan

Gen Prawit said Maj Gen Jaroon will not be protected, adding that soldiers are not allowed to commit a crime.

Maj Gen Kongcheep Tantrawanich, the defence spokesman, said if the military officers had actually committed the crime they would not be protected and must face both legal and disciplinary action.

Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda, the police chief, said there is sufficient evidence against the suspects.  He believed the case is not complicated, adding that the suspects — be they soldiers, police or civilians — must be under the law.