Tourist police say they have broken up a "legshaking gang" targeting mainly tourists, who grab victims by the leg in a bagdropping pretence or a staged fight before getting away with their valuables. They were especially active in Bangkok's Silom and Bang Rak areas.
Two Filipino men - Angor Roger Novo, 36, and Billionet Manni, 55 - were arrested on May 26 for robbing 54yearold Canadian Faramad Adadian of US$3,000 (Bt103,000)in cash, $3,000 in cashier cheques, and Bt1,000 in cash.
Police arrested the duo as they were fighting with good Samaritans helping the victim at the mouth of Soi Silom 28. Other victims also identified the duo as their robbers.
Police say that the duo, along with five other gang members, assaulted and robbed tourists by pretending to drop papers near the victim. They would then shake the victim's legs in a chaotic scene, while other gang members pocketed the victim's valuables. Then all would flee in taxis.
One victim, jewellery businessman Thana Komenthiti, 59, told police he was robbed of Bt100,000 worth of valuables by five men while crossing Silom after withdrawing money from an ATM machine.
Metropolitan Police Area 6 chief Major General Wittaya Rattanawit said the gang members came into Thailand on threemonth tourist visas before leaving and coming back to Thailand to commit the crimes. "Sometimes, they stun victims with an electric shock device or by applying psychedelic medicine to the victim's body before getting away with their valuables, often by taxi," he said.
Wittaya said the gang lived in the Suparp Hotel in the Saphan Kwai area and operated for about a year in the city's other tourist areas. Three people had filed complaints to Yan Nawa police. Each said they had lost Bt100,000 worth of valuables.
After the latest assault, on Wednesday, tourist police arrested Novo and Manni, another Filipino man and two Filipino women, along with a notebook and assets worth Bt100,000 from Ratchada Soi 3 in Din Daeng area.
Deputy Tourist Police commander Colonel Yongkiat Monpranit said Tourist Police gave priority to this case after French tourist Sophia Yenepelliton, 49, lost gold ornaments worth Bt100,000 and Bt9,200 in cash to the gang at a Starbucks coffee outlet on Silom Road on March 18.
The complaint was filed and the victim talked to TV news reporters, leading to the police investigation that found the gang's operation on the cafe's security camera footage.
"The gang of about five or six members came into the cafe and chose to sit near the victim and pretended to read newspapers. While one member seated behind the victim grabbed the victim's purse on the floor by her foot, other members used newspapers as a cover, before escaping with her purse," he said.
Police found the suspects had also pickpocketed tourists in Pratunam area. Two suspects found in Din Daeng were said to belong to a 10strong Filipino "legshaking gang" that had operated many times before, luring tourists to gambling games and taking their valuables, the officer said. He expressed concern the gang had damaged Thailand's image.
--The Nation/Asia News Network