'Loan sharks' arrested for vandalism

'Loan sharks' arrested for vandalism

Restaurant attack to serve as case study

CHAI NAT: Members of a loan shark gang who vandalised their debtor's restaurant in Sankhaburi district in this Central Plains province for registering with the government's loan shark scheme have been arrested, police said yesterday.

Pol Lt Gen Jirasan Kaewsaeng-Ek, commissioner of the Provincial Police Region 1, yesterday led a press briefing announcing the arrest of two suspects from the gang, identified only as Traiphob, 28, from Nern Kham district, and Nirut, 24, from Hankha district on Wednesday.

A getaway motorcycle, a helmet, and their outfits were also seized.

According to Pol Lt Gen Jirasan, the duo were arrested over the alleged vandalism against the restaurant owned by their debtor, identified as Piyathida (surname withheld). They were apprehended shortly after the vandalism.

Ms Piyathida was reported to be one of the debtors who registered for the government's scheme to assist people in settling their debts with non-traditional lenders.

She had borrowed 30,000 baht from a man named Theerasak or Maew. Mr Theerasak was charging an exorbitant interest rate of 850 baht per day until she paid off the debt.

After Ms Piyathida registered with the state-run scheme, Mr Theerasak ordered Mr Traiphob and Mr Nirut to vandalise her restaurant at about 4.30am on Wednesday.

Mr Theerasak was later arrested at his house in Hankha district, said Pol Lt Gen Jirasan.

Earlier, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin had invited Pol Lt Gen Jirasan for talks about the case. The premier indicated he wanted the attack on Ms Piyathida's restaurant to be seen as a case study in predatory lending.

The Royal Thai Police has promised to protect the identity of registered debtors while giving fair treatment to alleged predatory lenders during the investigation process, said Mr Srettha.

As of Wednesday, 68,651 people had signed up for the scheme, with at least 4,449 of those based in Bangkok.

Those who want the state's help can register online through (debt.dopa.go.th), the ThaiID mobile app, by calling the Damrongtham Centre through its hotline on 1567, or by visiting their local district office until Feb 29 next year, said Suttipong Juljarern, permanent secretary of the Interior Ministry.

In other news, a debtor in Bangkok who was injured by their illegal loan shark visited investigators at the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) on Wednesday.

According to one of the family members, the debtor, identified only as Toey, was slashed on his arm by the loan shark two months ago. The CSD is investigating the case.

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