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Wednesday, Sep 3, 2014

Asia

Police hunt for Pattaya godmother in extortion ring

The Nation/ANN | Wednesday, Sep 3, 2014

Police and troops yesterday joined forces to crack down on a big extortion ring in Chon Buri province.

The ring has allegedly collected Bt2,000 ($80) per month each from more than 100 Vietnamese people working in the tourist town of Pattaya. All payers were given a name card that showed they were "protected" by Wikanda sae Lim or "Je Jiab".

The alleged "godmother" remains on the run. And at least one police officer is now linked to her ring.

Two of her aides were arrested yesterday - Sukhum Kaewdorndu, a 30-year-old Thai man, and Kaew, a Vietnamese man.

Bang Lamung district chief Sakchai Taenghor joined soldiers, police and administrative officials in their raid on a house in Bang Lamung district early yesterday in response to a tip-off that an extortion ring operated from there.

Inside the house, officials found Sukhum, a gun, ammunition, plus many passports and bank passbooks. The cash flow through the passbooks was around Bt50 million.

Sukhum told officials that he had worked for Wikanda, the owner of the Bri - Enjoy travel agency.

Inspections at the firm reveal the travel agency had already closed down. No one worked inside its office.

Ongoing investigations showed that Wikanda's Bri - Enjoy Hotel operated without any licence.

Kaew was arrested later in the day when he showed up at the house where Sukhum was arrested. He denied any knowledge of the alleged crime initially - however, his cell-phone rang while he was being interrogated - and it came from Wikanda.

He then confessed to "overseeing" more than 100 Vietnamese workers for Wikanda. The Vietnamese nationals had taken various jobs in Pattaya such as flower sellers and parking assistants.

Kaew said Wikanda had been able to prepare passports and accommodation for migrants who were interested.

"By paying a fee of Bt2,000 ($80) a month they can get protection. If summoned by officials in the area, they can produce the purple card given by us and local officials will know they are with Je Jiab," Kaew said.

Officials suspect Wikanda has close ties with some police officers. An apartment block affiliated with her gang has a red box for police patrols and the name of one officer. This building has housed many Vietnamese and Tai Yai nationals.

Officials have vowed to track down Wikanda.

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