Suspect caught 19 years after Japan slaying

A Thai man fleeing an arrest warrant in Japan for the murder of a Japanese woman more than 19 years ago has been caught in Nakhon Si Thammarat.

Veerasak: Former sex worker Veerasak Iempongsa, 39, from Trang, was apprehended yesterday when a passenger bus he was travelling on stopped on Phetkasem Road in Nakhon Si Thammarat's Thung Song district.

He is wanted by Japanese authorities for the murder of Awaji Megumi, 33, in her room at Youkawa Building in Tokyo's Toshima ward on March 14, 1993, when Mr Veerasak worked as a bar host in Shinjuku.

The arrest came after Pol Col Uichi Hara from Tokyo was assigned by the Japanese government to work with Thailand's Crime Suppression Division to help arrest Mr Veerasak who had returned to Thailand, CSD deputy chief Prasopchok Prommoon said.

Tokyo police had gathered evidence and sought a court warrant for his arrest, but there is no extradition treaty between Thailand and Japan and the Thai statute of limitations in Mr Veerasak's case was scheduled to expire in just five months, on March 14.

Pol Col Prasopchok said the CSD, the prosecution and Japanese police worked together closely before a warrant was issued for Mr Veerasak's arrest.

It was the first case in which a Thai suspect has committed a crime outside the country but Thailand has issued an arrest warrant, the CSD deputy chief said.

The CSD will conclude its investigation report and submit it to the prosecution. Police have initially pressed a charge of premeditated murder against the suspect.

Mr Veerasak said he had worked at a host at a bar in Japan where women go to pick up men. He met Megumi there.

The woman invited him to stay with her in her apartment, the suspect said.

He and the woman had a big quarrel after he had been there four or five days. He claimed the woman looked down on him for being a sex worker and spat on him. According to police, this drove him to stab her in the neck and strangle her with a belt. He fled with some cash and other valuables.

During his 19 years on the run, he worked informally as a manual labourer in several provinces and in Cambodia.

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Writer: Wassayos Ngamkham
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