BANGKOK (AP) — At least 11 people are suspected to be involved with a loan scam that allegedly drove a man to kill his wife and two young boys before trying to take his own life in their family home, Thai police said Wednesday.
Sanit Dokmai has been charged with premeditated murder after police found the bodies of his wife and two sons, who were 9 and 13, with slash wounds Monday inside a house in Samut Prakan province, Bangkok’s eastern suburb, said local police chief Rangsan Kamsook.
Rangsan said Sanit was conscious Wednesday but in critical condition and unable to speak nor eat due to severe wounds at his throat.
Police believe Sanit’s motive came from a huge debt the family was in. Police said Sanit is a debt guarantor for his friend in an amount of 400,000 baht ($11,400). The friend ran away and left Sanit to pay off the debt, then his wife tried to take out a loan to help and got scammed, said provincial police chief Pallop Araemlah.
Rangsan said the investigation of the money trail has allowed the police to obtain an arrest warrant on fraud and a violation of the Computer Crime Act for nine Thais and two Cambodians.
According to the police, Sanit’s wife applied for a loan online and was tricked into transferring money that scammers claimed to be for different processing fees. Local chief Rangsan said she filed a complaint to police last week saying she lost over 1.7 million baht ($48,000).
Thailand has struggled to cope with a recent explosion of cybercrime and scam cases. In 2022, the Thai police said they received over 200,000 online reports of scam totaling an estimated 30 billion baht ($855 million) or more.
A new report from the United Nations said criminal gangs have forced hundreds of thousands of people in Southeast Asia into participating in unlawful online scam operations involving billions of dollars worth of revenues, especially in Myanmar and Cambodia. Laos, the Philippines and Thailand were also cited among the main countries of destination or transit for victims of false recruitment.
In an attempt to tackle the problem, Thailand enacted a new law earlier this year that allows banks to immediately freeze suspicious accounts for 72 hours without requiring victims of scams to submit their police report. Once a victim transfers money to a scammer, that sum usually is quickly transferred to several other accounts, making it extremely difficult for the authorities to track and retrieve it.
Earlier in August, Thailand’s minister of Digital Economy and Society threatened to shut down Facebook, accusing the social media platform of not thoroughly screening the advertisements it runs, leaving people vulnerable to costly scams.