Sunday, 31 July 2022

Pier mishap, abuser caught on clip, bag thief's remorse

Good fortune knocks twice

Koranat Phuthong being rescued from under the pier

A Chai Nat man struggling to repay a 1-million-baht debt is grumbling he would rather be dead after being rescued after a near-drowning in the Chao Phraya River.

Koranat Phuthong, 31, started drinking to ease his troubles early on July 24. His life has been in turmoil since a Bangkok doctor accidentally sent to his account 1 million baht in late 2020.

Fatefully, Mr Koranat decided to spend it rather than track down its rightful owner, and now the doctor wants it back.

He went for a walk to a nearby pier close to Wat Pa Chao Phraya in Ban Kluay of Muang district and apparently fell in.

Police and rescue workers were called after a trader saw Mr Koranat submerge and raised the alarm.

They found half a bottle of alcohol and an overturned glass but no trace of Mr Koranat. The current was strong, and they feared the worst.

The search party was discussing what to do next when they heard a knocking sound coming from under the pier, and a man panting heavily.

After two hours of threshing about in the water Mr Koranat had washed up, exhausted, under the pier.

He was knocking to get the attention of the search party.

Koranat Phuthong being taken to hospital
The rescue workers put a steel cutter and spreader to work to open the pier and pull Mr Koranat to safety. He was still drunk and in bad shape, so they sent him to hospital.

Mr Koranat, now out of danger, insisted he fell in accidentally, though his wife Saithong Torueng, 44, wonders if he actually meant to take his own life.

As her husband recovers, she told reporters the story of Mr Koranat’s rapid rise to fortune thanks to the windfall bank transfer and how it changed his life.

Mr Koranat, she said, told her last August what happened, shortly after they met.

He found the money in his account at the end of 2020. A doctor from a Bangkok clinic had sent it to him by mistake, mistaking his account number for someone else’s.

Succumbing to greed, Mr Koranat decided not to return it. He showered 400,000 baht on relatives and spent the rest on friends, women, online gambling and games.

By the start of 2021 it had run out, and the owner, who tracked him down with the help of the bank, sued for its return.

In May, Mr Koranat received a summons to appear in a Bangkok court, where the doctor is taking legal action against him.

He told the court he had no money and explained how he had spent it. No longer the man of means he was for a brief few weeks as he was splurging the doctor’s money, he offered to pay it back at a modest rate of 6,000 baht a month.

Unimpressed, the court decided he should repay it as a lump sum in one month.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Koranat was unable to find such a large sum.

The relatives on whom he lavished the doctor’s cash refused to give him the money.

“He also tried contacting his friends asking to borrow but no one was interested in helping him,” Ms Saithong said.

On June 21 he went to court again.

“He said he didn’t have the money, and the doctor’s lawyer suggested he return 400,000 baht as a lump sum and pay back the rest gradually,” she said.

The court agreed. Once again, Mr Koranat did the rounds of his relatives, asking to borrow 400,000 baht. They refused and cut their ties with him.

“He was stressed, and threw away phone, which contained contact details for the doctor’s lawyer. Koranat was due in court again on July 20 but didn’t go as he still can’t find the money,” she said.

Unable to see a way forward, he turned to drink.

She saw him staggering out of their home towards the pier at 10am but left as she had some errands to do in town.

The police contacted her about midday to say he was missing and she raced back.

While Mr Koranat can thank his good fortune that he did not drown, he is now faced once again with the burden of paying back the debt.

The young man is still feeling weak and unable to talk much. He denies he intended to take his life and insists it was all an accident.

However, he told a doctor treating him that he still feels like dying would be preferable, as his problems haven’t gone away.

“I really shouldn’t have survived,” he grumbled.

Druggie warns of peril
Banpot Phongam with his guns

A Nong Khai man who went on a drugs and booze bender urged his teenage daughter to alert the police as he feared he would kill his family.

Tha Bo police on July 23 nabbed Banpot Phongam, 45, after he took an air rifle to a neighbour’s place behind Wat Sawang Thammawat and threatened his wife.

When police arrived, Mr Banpot, a backhoe driver, fled back inside his house and locked the door. After police surrounded the place, he agreed to come out.

They seized an air rifle and found another air gun inside.

Police also found six ya ba tablets in his jeans pocket. Mr Banpot said he bought them from local teens.

Earlier, Mr Banpot’s daughter, Teuy, 17, filmed him on her phone stomping about, rifle in hand, threatening to kill his wife whom he accused of being unfaithful.

Amarin TV aired the clips, which should help seal Mr Banpot’s fate at the hands of the law. Police have been reluctant to take action to date, the family says, as they claim it is a domestic matter.

In the first clip he fetches his gun and loads it in front of his daughter. She cries, and begs him to stop, but he won’t listen. He then walks outside to hunt down his wife.

In the second clip, Mr Banpot tells Teuy to contact her mother. If the police don’t come and arrest him, he says, he will kill everyone in the family.

In the third clip, he is shouting asking where his wife has gone.

Teuy said her mother had gone to a neighbour’s place to seek shelter. Several days ago, he had shot repeatedly at her mother, and she only narrowly escaped.

“I told him that Mum goes to stay with my grandma overnight, but he insists she is seeing someone else,” she said.

Speaking after her husband’s arrest, Warinda Phongam, 50, said the pair had been married 22 years and have two daughters, including Teuy, the youngest.

“Everything was normal until 3-4 years ago when he started taking drugs. When he mixes them with alcohol he grows paranoid, and claims I am seeing someone. He refuses to let me visit relatives, and threatens to kill the family,” she said.

“He also beats me. I have put up with it as I worried about the kids.

“I have begged him to quit the drugs but he won’t listen. I have also gone to the police. They hold him but then release him, as they say it is just a family matter.

“Luckily, he has never harmed the kids. I will have to talk to my family about what to do next because if he gets out of jail, he could go back to hurting me,” she said.

Teuy, who said she had seen her father beat her mother, said she didn’t know until the day of his arrest that he had been taking drugs. She felt shocked about what happened.

She hopes her mother can move away as she is worried about what will happen when he is released.

Soft-hearted thief returns bag

Natthawut Sangjaisom at the station.

An Ang Thong thief who returned a victim’s bag after finding a keepsake of her late father deserves no sympathy, his victim says.

Muang police nabbed Natthawut Sangjaisom, 23, after he knocked a young woman off her bike, stole her bag and phone, and stripped her, supposedly to stop her from giving pursuit.

Mr Natthawut robbed Chanpen Saengsawang, 34, on Khan Khlong Thing Nam Road, in Village 4, Saladaeng subdistrict.

News reports said he looked in her bag and found a photo of her late father on which she had written: “I love only you, Dad.” Seized by guilt, he left the bag at the scene, but took her money and phone.

Police found the thief quickly because Ms Chanpen memorised his motorcycle registration plate, and was able to describe his appearance. However, Ms Chanpen, 34, is in no mood for extending sympathy. Apart from the fact he stripped her, she is also wondering why he didn’t put himself in her place.

“That is my last real picture of my late Dad. I also want my phone back as there are photos of Dad in the phone too,” she said. “I have kids, as does the thief. If something had happened to me, who would look after them?

“I want the police to take legal action all the way. I won’t accept his apology even though he offered one,” she said. Mr Natthawut insisted he stripped his victim to stop her giving chase. He insists he held no other motives. Police charged him with theft.

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