Navy arrests alleged fraudster promising southern salvation

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A former Royal Thai Navy conscript has been arrested for allegedly scamming active recruits out of 25,000 baht each with a promise to spare them from serving in Thailand’s violent southern provinces.

Nattatapong Khongpreecha, 28, a senior manager with Neo Life International Co., was arrested by Navy and Sattahip police Sept. 9. He was charged with both fraud and impersonating a Navy officer.

Nattatapong Khongpreecha has been charged with both fraud and impersonating a Navy officer. Nattatapong Khongpreecha has been charged with both fraud and impersonating a Navy officer.

Nattatapong, who served in the Navy from 2009-2011, allegedly visited the Naval Recruit Training Center, passing himself off as a Navy commander. There he is accused of befriending young conscripts, name-dropping high-ranking officers he claimed were friends and told them that, for a fee, he could assure them they would not be posted in the south, where hundreds of Navy personnel have been killed in a separatist uprising since 2004.

Three victims reportedly paid Nattapong 25,000 each. He’d then come to the training center as himself and present a Neo Life gift basket worth 5,000 baht to a high-ranking officer friend, claiming that the conscript was a relative and asking that he be spared service in the south. It was then up to the officer to decide the conscript’s fate. Success was not guaranteed and Nattapong kept the 20,000 left over after the basket’s purchase.