As Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin spent this weekend in Chiang Mai, he urged local police there to tighten security for tourists particularly for Chinese arrivals, an arrest on Thursday raised questions about the continuing pattern of Chinese visitors being kidnapped for ransom and links between these gangs and Chinese groups in Cambodia.

Thai police in Bangkok are investigating if a Chinese man who kidnapped a Chinese woman in the city on Thursday is the same man who kidnapped a Chinese woman in April and fled the country with an accomplice to Cambodia before he was arrested. Both men have similar names and profiles and on both occasions, snared their victims through the social media app Telegram while employing the same intimidation tactics including binding the women by hand and foot. The man arrested on Thursday also had employment identification issued in Cambodia this April and valid until the end of 2023.

Expressway Police in Bangkok, on Thursday, arrested 37-year-old Mr Zhua Mu Ling from Hainan province in southern China after he kidnapped a 27-year-old Chinese woman and forced her to deposit ฿250,000 into his bank account. Police are looking at the similarities between this case and one in April, which are striking.

The Metropolitan Police Bureau in Bangkok is investigating an incident on Thursday where a Chinese woman who had been kidnapped by a 37-year-old Chinese man was rescued by Expressway Police in the city.

They arrested the perpetrator after his rented car became involved in an accident with a Toyota Fortuner on the Si Rat Expressway near Rama 9 and the Piyavate Hospital, in the Huai Khwang district of Bangkok.

Police are exploring both cases and the similarities in details to see if it is the same Chinese man who committed both crimes five months apart

Police on Thursday evening were reported as being particularly interested in exploring the links between the man arrested, named by his passport as Mr Zhua Mu Ling and a Chinese man who in April kidnapped another Chinese woman in a similar incident in the Wang Thonglang area of Bangkok after befriending her on Telegram, the popular social network app. 

On that occasion, a Chinese woman identified as Ms Lin had gone to the man’s condominium complex on Rama 9 on Monday, April 17th and was taken captive and bound by her legs and hands before ultimately paying over ฿427,000 to the Chinese man, eventually securing her release.

In that case, police tracked the Chinese man and an accomplice who were believed to have crossed over the border into Cambodia.

Similarities in the cases are striking

The similarities between the case discovered on Thursday and the case in April are striking.

The Chinese man arrested on Thursday and being held by police is now facing four charges including sexual assault, abduction, ransom and possibly rape charges.

His passport names him as Mr Zhua Wu Ling, a name not identical but very similar to the Chinese individual implicated in April’s attack who was named Mr Zhang Ji Ling.

Similarly, the woman who was successfully entrapped in April was invited to a romantic rendezvous where she shared a meal at a restaurant in the centre of Bangkok and drank alcohol with her kidnapper. She told police she met the polite talking Chinese man also on the social network app Telegram.

Police on Thursday suggested that the man in the latest case had a job as a taxi driver in Dubai.

However, they found a work identification in his possession showing he had permission to work in Cambodia from April 2023 until December 2023.

Chinese suspect arrested on Thursday from Hainan province in China was identified as Mr Zhua Wu Ling

The suspect is known to be from Hainan province in the People’s Republic of China, a southern island.

Expressway Police arrested Mr Zhua Wu Ling on Thursday afternoon after a Chinese victim, a 27-year-old woman who resides in the Asoke area of Bangkok and is a regular tourist to Thailand, reported to a station on the motorway in a distressed state.

Police who investigated the Chinese woman’s background told reporters that she appeared to be engaged in the business of transferring people to South Korea for plastic surgery.

The Chinese woman first entered Thailand on the 10th of July 2022 and subsequently on the 6th of June 2023.

Her third visit to the kingdom was on July 16th this year, with her latest entry as a tourist being recorded on September 8th, 2023.

27-year-old Chinese woman, the kidnapping victim, is a tourist who regularly visits Thailand and maintains an apartment in the Asoke area of Bangkok

Nevertheless, she maintains an apartment in the Asoke, Montri area of the capital.

Both the victim and her kidnapper were transferred to Makkasan Police Station on New Petchaburi Road in Bang Kapi after 3 pm on Thursday. 

The shocked 27-year-old was interviewed on the third floor of the police station while the arrested Chinese man was interrogated by police in the facility’s interrogation room.

She told investigating officers she had befriended her kidnapper on Telegram.

After 10 days they had made an appointment to meet in the Moo Krata restaurant on Ramkhamhaeng 65 in the capital.

Then, she told investigators that she lost consciousness and awoke in a hotel bedroom on Soi Lat Phrao 81, naked.

He had then invited her to travel with him to Pattaya and on the road had stopped to buy food to eat. Afterwards, however, he drove her to a secluded place and attacked her by grabbing her neck.

He overpowered her to bind her hands and feet. 

Placed in the boot of the hired Toyota Yaris

Police officers, when they found and rescued the woman on Thursday, had to assist her in removing the elaborate rope knot from her ankles, which her kidnapper had used to truss her up. 

After this, the Chinese villain placed her in the boot of the grey rented Toyota Yaris car he was driving.

Police have revealed that the man hired the car from September 11th to 14th at a rate of ฿5,000 per day. 

This was before Thursday’s road traffic accident foiled his plan to kidnap her.

On Thursday, the woman told officers before the accident and being dumped in the boot, Mr Zhua Wu Ling had become extremely menacing and threatened to kill her if she did not find money and transfer it into his bank account.

Friend sent ฿250,000 to her bank account when the kidnapper demanded ฿1 million after overpowering and physically assaulting her in a secluded spot

She had phoned a friend begging for money to be sent to the kidnapper as she did not have funds of her own. The Chinese attacker had demanded ฿1 million in ransom.

He was eventually paid ฿250,000 by a friend of the woman’s.

Before Thursday’s accident on the Bangkok Expressway, Mr Zhua Wu Ling had received the ฿250,000.

Police found ฿100,000 in cash in the car after he was apprehended in addition to money in other currencies which he obtained when they stopped the car to retrieve the cash from a banking outlet. 

The Chinese man then crashed his rental car into a Toyota Fortuner vehicle driven by 33-year-old Mr Sompong Sisod.

The Fortuner with a Sisaket registration was slightly damaged while the Toyota Yaris car suffered a damaged grille and left headlight after it rammed into the larger vehicle.

Mr Sompong told police on Thursday that he was taking a brother to work in Samsen Nai in the Phaya Thai district of Bangkok when the incident occurred.

Thai Driver involved in the crash with the kidnapper’s vehicle said he appeared to speak no Thai and was quite calm before being arrested by the police

He thought the Toyota Yaris had probably been driving at high speed and the driver had underestimated the distance between his car and the one in front of him. 

The witness told police that the Chinese man emerged from the vehicle but he quickly discerned that he could not speak Thai.

He used a Google Translate application on his smartphone to suggest that he was willing to pay any damages and asked the Thai man to estimate how much it would cost to make the repairs to his car.

The Thai man, however, thought it unwise to settle the matter in such a manner and insisted on calling for highway assistance personnel and the police to attend the scene.

Shortly afterwards, rescue workers with the Highway Service towed the two vehicles off the road to a kiosk on the side of the expressway where the Thai man saw police approaching.

At that point, he thought the police were intent on acting as adjudicators between the two drivers but when police caught up with the two cars, they immediately arrested the Chinese man. 

The Thai vehicle driver said he was shocked as the man appeared calm and relaxed when dealing with the situation.

Kidnapper taken to Makkasan Police Station in Bangkok’s Bang Kapi area. Senior police officer noted the similarity with the April case to reporters

It was then that Mr Sompong learned from officers that the Toyota Yaris also included a kidnapped Chinese woman who had managed to free herself from the boot of the car, hail down a taxi and travel to Expressway 2 Police Station to alert officers to the peril that she was in. 

Later on Thursday afternoon, Police Major General Noppasin Poolsawat, the Deputy Commander of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, arrived at Makkasan Police Station to address reporters’ questions. 

General Noppasin drew attention to the similarity in cases between the April kidnapping of another Chinese woman and the current case.

He told reporters that police working with Expressway Station 2 had used CCTV cameras to identify the suspect before approaching him to rescue the two vehicles.

Earlier in the afternoon, as well as ฿100,000 in cash, they had also recovered a significant amount of money in other currencies contained in the vehicle.

The senior police officer told reporters that the Chinese man had used a tourist visa to enter the kingdom and was allowed to stay for 15 days while the victim had entered the kingdom also on a tourist visa but was allowed to stay for two months.

Police believe victim was drugged by the Chinese man

Police investigating the crime believe he drugged his victim and that it was part of a pattern that the Chinese perpetrator had perfected to extort money from targeted Chinese women who he believed also to be affluent and have access to large amounts on deposit.

The story is similar to the case in April where it seems that Chinese attackers continue to have intelligence on their prey before they entrap them to extort money. 

Incoming tourism growth slows amid visas, airfares and attacks on Chinese nationals which have caused jitters

Police Major Noppasin told reporters that police were screening both the victim and the kidnapper to establish their backgrounds and whether they have criminal histories in China.

He also made it clear that investigating officers do not believe that the Chinese kidnapper had links to Chinese mafia groups and was acting alone.

Police assure the public of the deployment of a new surveillance system and measures to protect tourists to the kingdom including more Chinese visitors

General Noppasin was questioned by reporters on the threat posed by Chinese criminality again rising in Bangkok and Pattaya in light of the new visa-free access for tourists from China coming into effect at the end of September. 

He told them that the Thai police were prepared to handle the situation and to guarantee the safety of all tourists travelling to Thailand.

This included the deployment of new systems to track visitors on arrival at airports and points of entry in conjunction with closer cooperation with Chinese authorities.

Questioned by reporters in Chiang Mai on Saturday, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, explained that he had spoken to senior police officers in the province and urged them to tighten security for tourists, especially Chinese visitors.

Prime Minister Srettha calls for tight security

The PM said he was aware of new security measures being put in place by the Royal Thai Police to counteract the threat to Chinese tourists from mafia groups linked to that country as well as tighter security for all visitors to the country.

The Prime Minister also spoke of discussions between the Thai government and the Chinese Ambassador about fake news reports circulating in China.

Speaking to the Chiang Mai Police Chief he made the situation clear: ‘Extra measures also are needed to deter illegal activities which might mar the good spirit behind the government’s efforts to stimulate Thailand’s tourism-dependent economy.’

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