National and local Royal Thai Police officials anxious to wrap a case potentially disastrous to Thailand’s lucrative Russian tourism trade announced the separate arrests of Wichen Jaija, 35, Thongchai Jandee, 20, and Anuwat Wat-Onn, 32, Jan. 3. Wichen is wanted on homicide charges in Kamphaeng Phet while Anuwat works in Pattaya’s much-maligned jet-ski rental industry.
In addition to kidnapping, rape and robbery offenses, all the suspects were slapped with drug-use charges.
Sitting from left, Anuwat Wat-Onn, 32, Wichen Jaija, 35, and Thongchai Jandee, 20, have been arrested on rape and robbery charges. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)
More than 50 police officers were needed to protect the suspects as angry crowds surrounded the Jan. 3 re-enactment of the alleged crimes in Huay Yai and on Pratamnak Hill.
Suspects were forced to show how they allegedly used a shotgun and knife to abduct the two 30s-age Russians from Pratamnak Soi 2 early Dec. 26 and transport them to a shack near the Channok Reservoir where they were sexually assaulted.
During the arrests, police seized a shotgun, knife, 12 rounds of ammunition, bag, mobile phone, seven Singapore dollars, 1,320 baht, a gold necklace, 51 keys and a dark blue Toyota Mighty-X truck.
During the re-enactment, Wichen and Thongchai confessed they had hauled the women from the truck and raped them while Anuwat stood watch.
Anuwat, who said this was his first offense, claimed Wichen and Thongchai appeared at his house on Thepprasit Soi 5 with drugs, then suggested they cruise Pattaya. After spotting the Russians, who were on the way back to their hotel after a night partying on Walking Street, Anuwat said the initial plan was only to rob the pair. However, he said, Wichen insisted on raping them.
News of the case exploded across Russia and Europe, giving the “Land of Smiles” another black eye the same week a British tourist was shot and killed on a resort beach in Koh Phangan. Russians now rank as Thailand’s top non-Asian tourist group and the case could have proved calamitous for the industry if it remained unsolved.
Large crowds gather as police lead the suspects to reenact the crime.
Victor Khreventshop, deputy senior consul for the Russian embassy, along with a Thai Chonburi-based consultant, thanked provincial police commander Maj. Gen. Khatcha Thatsart for the quick arrests, presenting police with flowers.
Investigators credited a large number of witnesses and copious amounts of closed-circuit television camera footage along the escape route with facilitating the arrests. Police initially tracked the truck to Wichen’s East Pattaya home, arresting him at a minor wife’s house in Chachoengsao. The other two suspects were arrested a day later.