BANGKOK, Thailand — The three female suspects wanted for the murder of a karaoke bar girl have confessed to the charges laid against them, with one of the suspects, Preeyanuch “Preaw” Nonwangchai, insisting she had no intention to kill the victim.
Speaking at a press conference Sunday following their arrests, national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda said the death of 22-year-old Warisara Klinjui is not linked to any organized drug ring. A personal feud and an unpaid debt were the motives, he said.
The police called in the media Sunday afternoon in Bangkok, several hours after the arrests of Ms Preeyanuch, 24, Kawita “Earn” Ratchada, 25, and Apiwan “Jae” Sattayabundit, 28, were confirmed on Saturday night.
The three have been charged with cooperating in premeditated murder, concealing a body and theft. A crime re-enactment is expected to take place Monday at 7-8 locations in Khon Kaen.
The suspects were not present at the press briefing led by the national police chief. They were flown from Chiang Rai to Bangkok and then to Khon Kaen province where they were to be further interrogated by investigators in charge of the case.
The trio are among a group of five who allegedly killed Warisara, dismembered her body and buried the body parts in Khon Kaen’s Khao Suan Kwang district late last month. The female trio fled across the border to Tachileik in Burma’s Shan State on May 25, the day Warisara’s body was discovered.
Two other detained suspects are Wasin Namprom, 25, who was arrested in Laos and his girlfriend Jidarat Promkhun, 21, who was nabbed in Ubon Ratchathani.
Thai authorities sought help from their Burma counterparts to hunt down the suspects, who hid in a vacant house in Tachileik. The trio were detained by Burma authorities on Saturday night and delivered to the Thai police Sunday morning.
According to Pol Gen Chakthip, who questioned the three suspects by himself for an hour, the suspects have confessed to all the charges and Preeyanuch has implicated Wasin as being involved in the dismembering.
Pol Gen Chakthip said Warisara’s murder stemmed from a personal conflict as the victim had given police information leading to the arrest of Preeyanuch’s husband in a drug-related case. Her husband is now in prison. In addition, Preeyanuch claimed Warisara owed her up to 40,000 baht for more than a year.
Quoting Preeyanuch, the police chief said she had no intention to kill Warisara but wanted to teach the victim a lesson.
“She insisted she met the victim by chance about 1 a.m. of May 25 after not having seen her for a year. So she asked her to get into the car to teach her a lesson but they had a row in the car and she strangled the victim in a fit of rage. The victim died in the car.
“The suspects thought about concealing the body by dumping it into the water but knew it would turn up. So they dismembered and buried the body,” he said.
According to Pol Gen Chakthip, the suspects contacted authorities to surrender under pressure.
“They gave themselves up to authorities because we put a lot on pressure on this case. We asked Myanmar to help hunt them down. The suspects said they didn’t want other people to get in trouble,” he said.
“At least they had the conscience to turn themselves in,” he said.
The hand-over of the three suspects was made on Saturday night shortly after 9 p.m. when Lt Col Aung Mien U, the Burma co-chairman of the Thailand-Myanmar Border Township Committee (TBC), and Pol Lt Col Ten Win, chief of the Tachilek police station, sent an urgent message to Col Kidakorn Chantra, commander of the 3rd Cavalry Task Force of the Pha Muang Force and the Thai co-chairman of the TBC.
On receiving the message, Col Kidakorn ordered Thai authorities led by Pol Col Ekkorn Bussababodin, chief of the Chiang Rai immigration office, Pol Col Songkrit Ontakhrai, the Mae Sai police chief, and Thai TBC members to receive the suspects from Burma authorities.
The hand-over was made at a bridge across the Sai River and witnessed by a large number of people including tourists on the Thai side.
A photo of Thai and Burma authorities with the three suspects went viral.
Commenting on social media calls that the trio faces the death sentence, he said sentencing is a judicial matter and said the harshest penalty in a murder case is death.
Pol Gen Chakthip also defended police treatment of the suspects, who were seen in several photos released on social media as “relaxed” and not handcuffed, saying authorities were confident the suspects would not flee.
He also claimed it was “normal” for police to let female suspects apply make-up while in detention.
Pol Maj Gen Charoenwit Sriwanich, deputy chief of Police Region 4, said no drug charge was pressed against the suspects.
Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn Prousoontorn, commissioner of the Immigration Bureau, said immigration authorities had pressured business operators not to provide shelter to the suspects.
He said the three went out with customers on May 27-28 before turning up in Tachilek.
After hearing about the arrests, the victim’s family said they want to see justice run its course and the punishment must fit the crime.
Thonglom Klinjui, 67, grandmother of the victim, said the crime was “cruel and inhumane” and hoped the suspects would get what they deserve.
Sakhon Phasi, mother of Preeyanuch, said she was relieved to hear that her daughter is alive.
Sakhon said she hoped her daughter would be forgiven now she decided to pay her dues for the crime.
“She has surrendered and will pay for what she did, I hope she will be forgiven,” she said.