The brutal murder of a Vietnamese man whose body was dismembered and dumped in a rubbish bin in Bang Phlat district on Wednesday has raised concerns over Vietnamese organised crime gangs operating here.
The Metropolitan Police Bureau has instructed police in Bangkok to gather information about Vietnamese migrants and their activities, and to find out if any city cops might be benefitting from criminal rackets.
The investigation was ordered after Wednesday's Bang Phlat murder case.
Bang Yi Khan police were alerted about 11am when a security guard found the body inside a rubbish bin in an apartment. The victim had suffered several stab wounds and his hands and feet were tied.
Investigators searched the room for evidence to try to identify the victim.
The footage from the apartment's surveillance cameras showed five men left the room about 5.30am that day.
The security guard said the men had borrowed a rubbish bin from him.
When he noticed them leaving the apartment in haste, he went to check the room, where he found the body.
Undercover police were sent to gather more information from the area around the apartment, and in the evening two witnesses were brought in for questioning.
The witnesses told investigators the victim was a Vietnamese national known only as Hoang, who was well-known among the Vietnamese community in the area.
"The witnesses said Hoang behaved as a mafioso targetting Vietnamese people. He was said to have threatened and extorted people from his own country," said Pol Maj Gen Thitirat Nongharnpitak, Metropolitan Police Bureau deputy commissioner, who is in charge of the case.
The witnesses said the room where the body was found belonged to a Vietnamese woman whose brother worked for Hoang.
The Vietnamese man and his gang were said to have paid off local police at a monthly rate of 500 baht per head for the people they extorted.
Pol Maj Gen Thitirat said investigators believed the murder was a result of conflicts within his criminal group.
Further investigation identified the Vietnamese room owner as Tran Thi Nhung, 21.
The woman was arrested at Saraburi bus terminal as she was about to board a bus for Nakhon Phanom, from where she intended to flee overland to Laos.
Ms Tran told the police her brother had been in contact with Hoang's group, which extorts money from Vietnamese nationals in Thailand. The gang demands victims pay for protection fees. Those refusing to pay are normally beaten. Some female victims are raped and some males have their fingers cut off.
Ms Tran told investigators she did not know whether her brother was involved in the killing, as she was not in the room when the murder took place.
Pol Maj Gen Thitirat said the Vietnamese suspects had originally travelled to Thailand as tourists.
They then found work illegally as waiters and car parking staff. They have stayed in Thailand for four years.
The investigators later identified them as Ms Tran's brother, Tran Thanh Lam, 27, and Dang Thi Thuy, 24, Nguyen Van Thao, 19 and Le Van Thang, 29. All were rounded up at a rented house in Saraburi's Muang district. Mr Tran allegedly told police he killed Hoang because the victim had extorted 50,000 baht from his sister in protection fees.
Pol Maj Gen Thitirat said most of the witnesses and suspects said Vietnamese nationals who came to work in Thon Buri district were from Hao Binh city of Vietnam, not far from Nakhon Phanom.
They travelled to Laos and then sneaked over the Thai border in Nakhon Phanom, he said.
Most of them worked illegally in Bangkok's suburbs and Nonthaburi.
Pol Maj Gen Thitirat said he had ordered police at all Bangkok stations to gather information about these Vietnamese immigrants to establish if there are other gangs wielding criminal influence to prey on their compatriots.
Information must be sent back to the Metropolitan Police Bureau within a month and police found to taking payoffs from such gangs will be punished, he said.
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- Writer: Wassayos Ngamkham