Crimes that rocked the nation in 2022

As the New Year approaches, the ‘Bangkok Post’ takes the opportunity to select five crime stories that both captivated and shocked the nation during the past 12 months.

1. Zebra crossing death

heartbreaking: Ophthalmologist Waraluck Supawatjariyakul died after being hit by a big bike on a zebra crossing on Phaya Thai Road on Jan 21.

The tragic death of Dr Waraluck Supawatjariyakul, an ophthalmologist at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine, who was hit by a motorcycle as she was trying to negotiate a zebra crossing in January, underscores the need to improve road safety for pedestrians.

Waraluck was struck down by the Ducati motorcycle of Pol L/Cpl Norawich Buadok, an officer attached to the Metropolitan Police Bureau’s Protection and Crowd Control Division, at a crossing on Phaya Thai Road in Ratchathewi district on Jan 21.

The 33-year-old doctor died from her injuries.

After the accident, #Mor Kratai became the top trending item on Thai-language Twitter. Rabbit translates into Thai as kratai, which is Waraluck’s nickname.

On April 25, Pol L/Cpl Norawich was sentenced by the Criminal Court to one year and 15 days in prison for the doctor’s death.

In addition to driving over the speed limit, the court found him guilty on eight other counts, which included driving a vehicle with no licence plate, driving an unregistered and uninsured vehicle, failing to keep to the left lane, and reckless driving causing death.

The court initially sentenced him to two years and 30 days in prison and fined him 8,000 baht.

The sentences were commuted to one year and 15 days in prison without suspension and 4,000 baht in fines because he confessed. The court released him on 200,000 baht bail.

Waraluck’s family have also filed a 72-million-baht civil lawsuit against the Royal Thai Police, as the first defendant, and against Pol L/Cpl Norawich over their daughter’s death.

Waraluck’s death grabbed the headlines, prompting calls for measures to be taken to improve safety for pedestrians.

A road safety campaign called “Rabbit Crossing” was launched on Sept 1 to raise public awareness about the need for traffic discipline, especially at pedestrian crossings in Bangkok.

Billboards have been erected to remind motorists to slow down, stop and avoid overtaking other vehicles at pedestrian crossings.

2. Tangmo goes overboard

suspicious circumstances: Nida ‘Tangmo’ Patcharaveerapong’s mother visits Pibul 1 Pier to lay flowers following her daughter’s Feb 24 drowning.

The death of an actress, Nida “Tangmo” Patcharaveerapong, was the most drama-filled case of the year.

Tangmo, 37, was reported missing on Feb 24. Before she went missing, she was aboard a speedboat with Idsarin “Gatick” Juthasuksawat, her personal manager; Wisapat “Sand” Manomairat; Phaiboon “Robert” Trikanjananun; Tanupat “Por” Lerttaweewit, the boat’s owner; and Nitas “Job” Kiratisoothisathorn, the driver.

Tangmo fell into the Chao Phraya River near Pibul 1 Pier in Muang district of Nonthaburi that night.

Her mother, Panida Siriyuthayothin, appeared alone at Krung Thon Bridge Pier on the morning of Feb 25 expressing concern about the delayed search.

The actress’s body was found two days later.

The autopsy found a wound on her thigh that looked like it was inflicted by the boat propeller, and verified drowning as the cause of death.

After the autopsy’s result came out, netizens raised concerns about the case’s transparency, worried the passengers might do something to try to clear their names.

The speedboat’s owner insisted the actress fell after she went to the stern to urinate, which stirred netizens’ confusion even more.

On March 18, Ms Panida assigned Decha Kittiwittayanan as a lawyer for the case. He left the case some time later, after Ms Panida gave Tangmo’s phone to an internet influencer behind his back.

The conflicts continued before Atchariya Ruangrattanapong, chairman of the Crime Victims Assistance Club, filed a complaint against the officers handling the case to the Royal Thai Police on Aug 9.

Before submitting the case to public prosecutors, police had questioned 124 witness including 16 experts and collected 88 pieces of evidence, 47 sets of documents and 200 video clips from CCTV. The police file featured 2,249 pages.

Public prosecutors have indicted the five passengers on several charges including recklessness causing death.

They also charged Peam “Em” Thamtheerasri, who was not on the boat, with directing others to make false statements and assisting people to avoid or receive a lesser punishment, and concealing evidence.

After a long-awaited investigation, the six suspects were released on bail. The case now awaits a court decision.

3. Pub blaze kills 26 patrons

death trap: The now demolished Mountain B pub turned into a deadly firetrap containing many flammable materials when a fire broke out on Aug 5 which claimed 26 lives and left many injured.

Adeadly fire broke out at Mountain B, a pub in Chon Buri that claimed 26 lives and left many other patrons grievously burned in August.

The fire started at the nightclub on Sukhumvit Road in the Sattahip district of Chon Buri in the early hours of Aug 5, killing 13 people trapped inside as the blaze ripped through the venue.

The death toll later rose to 26 with around 50 injured. For many, the fire recalled the deadly blaze at the Santika Club on January 2009 in Bangkok which claimed 61 lives and injured more than 200.

Mountain B was an enclosed building with many flammable materials, including ceiling and wall insulation.

A spark was first spotted on the ceiling as the pub was about to close before the fire expanded rapidly. The team of firefighters took two hours to put it out.

A report showed four people were found dead around the front door, which was the only entrance and exit of the building, three in the men’s restroom, one behind the DJ booth, and two at the back and three at the front of the cashier counter.

The police investigation found the pub was operating without a permit, had a blocked emergency exit and had undergone extensive modifications including the use of highly-flammable soundproofing materials.

The victims were aged from 17 to 49 years old. All were identified as Thai nationals. Four were below 20 years old, putting the pub’s age restriction measures into question.

Phongsiri Panprasong, 28, the owner, faced charges of recklessness causing deaths and injuries and operating an entertainment venue illegally.

The pub owner negotiated compensation for the victims while a legal team assisted the families of the dead.

4. Nightmare at nursery

shot for nought: A grandmother holds a pair of her granddaughter’s tiny sneakers. The tot was one of 24 children killed in a mass shooting at a daycare centre in Nong Bua Lam Phu.

Thailand experienced one of the most horrifying mass shootings in its history in early October.

The massacre took place at a child development centre in the northeastern province of Nong Bua Lam Phu when a former police sergeant went on a shooting rampage killing 38, 24 of whom were children at the kindergarten.

The shooter was a 34-year-old former officer, Pol Sgt Panya Khamrab. Police said he had been expelled from the force on June 15 for possession of methamphetamine pills.

He opened fire at the Uthai Sawan tambon administrative organisation in Na Klang district before he burst into the nearby childcare facility operated by the organisation and stabbed 23 children who had been taking an afternoon nap.

Two teachers, one of them eight months’ pregnant, were among the adults killed.

Pol Sgt Panya fled the scene in his pickup after the carnage. Later, he took his own life after killing his wife and their 3-year-old son in their home as it was being surrounded by police.

Many said the tragedy was a consequence of loose gun control and drug abuse.

Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Torsak Sukwimol said the mother of the gunman told him her son had gone to court to attend a hearing on his drug case on Thursday morning, just prior to the shooting.

After leaving the court, he appeared stressed out, took some narcotics and started to feel paranoid, Pol Gen Torsak quoted the mother as saying, adding he then grabbed his gun and headed to the child development centre.

Apologising to all those affected by her son’s attacks, his mother said he had been under a great deal of stress since he lost his job and was incapable of repaying his debts.

After the tragedy, the national police chief ordered school shooter drills nationwide to prepare teachers and students for security emergencies.

5. Zeroing in on triads

Gang-related: Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn, centre, leads a probe into Chaiyanat ‘Tuhao’ Kornchayanant, an alleged triad boss accused of drug offences.

The police raid on a luxury house on Rama V Road in late November marked the beginning of a manhunt for Chinese businessman and suspected crime boss Chaiyanat “Tuhao” Kornchayanant, wanted on drug charges.

Prior to the raid, police had obtained information that Mr Chaiyanat was a key figure in a Chinese criminal syndicate operating in Thailand.

The gang is believed to have been involved in various illegal activities including the narcotic drug trade and the murder of some Chinese compatriots.

Following the raid on Nov 23, Mr Chaiyanat turned himself in to Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn, the deputy national police chief, and denied any wrongdoing.

He has since been detained in Bangkok Remand Prison after police objected to his bail application, arguing they need more time to investigate the case.

According to police, Mr Chaiyanat and the Chinese gang have been involved in at least four criminal cases.

The first case involves Club One, a pub in Pattaya City of Chon Buri which local police had raided. They found drugs on the premises.

The second case involves Top One, a pub in the Sutthisan area of Bangkok which a Chinese woman had visited. She died of a drug overdose afterwards.

The case made headlines and prompted a high-profile investigation.

The third case involves Jin Ling, a pub in the Yannawa area of the capital where 104 Chinese patrons tested positive for narcotic drugs.

The fourth case concerns Baby Face, a pub in the Khlong Tan area of Bangkok which is believed to be connected to the gang’s drug trade.

Assets worth about 3 billion baht that are believed to belong to Mr Chaiyanat were seized for inspection, said Pol Gen Surachate.

Pol Gen Surachate said growing distrust towards the police investigating the case was unwarranted.