The Nation



Court upholds verdict against Chiang Mai extortion gang

The Appeals Court yesterday upheld a lower court's verdict to imprison five men, including high-profile murder convict Chalermchai Matchaklam, for their role in extorting "protection money" from vendors at two Chiang Mai markets 17 years ago.

The court also acquitted two men - retired Army officer Intharat Yordbangtoei and Suthin Srimuengluang - who were initially accused of being part of the racket, on grounds of insufficient evidence. The court also put the case against another defendant who is dead to rest.

Meanwhile, Chalermchai - now serving a life term for killing a provincial governor in 2001 - has been given an additional six years. In addition, four defendants in the case were ordered by the court in April 2011 to return the money they took from 128 vendors in Waroros Market and the Night Bazaar.

Sarayuth Phooplub was sentenced to nine years in prison, while Thanee Foothong, Phornchai Sukhanthasirikul and Theerayuth Suwannaphanich were each handed a six-year term. The four had abused their authority as Chiang Mai municipal law enforcers to extort money.

Separately, former police captain Nat Cholnithiwanit and seven Border Patrol officers were yesterday handed 12-year prison terms for allegedly kidnapping a woman, planting drugs on her and blackmailing her for money. Nat was given an additional 10-year sentence for allegedly raping her while she was being detained.

Nat and other two policemen, among the eight defendants, were sentenced to an additional five years each for preying on four other people. The remaining five defendants were sentenced to six years and eight months for separate crimes in a Criminal Court verdict in July 2009.

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