Preeyanuch “Preaw” Nonwangchai, has been glorified as a “femme fatale” for allegedly strangling and dismembering her friend in cold blood. (Photo: News Corp Australia)
Murder Babes Confess in Strangest Death Case in Thailand
by Matt Young
They are the most seemingly unapologetic killers in the world.
Despite the gruesome story behind their alleged slaughter of a young woman, these three brash Thai suspects have become overnight celebrities for all the wrong reasons.
They became known as the “murder babes” after going on the run for brutally killing and dismembering a karaoke bar worker and since then their antics have not gone unnoticed.
The crime has been described as the most gruesome murder that has ever taken place in Thailand, but instead of showing remorse, these women have been photographed applying makeup in police custody, posing and laughing with immigration officers and even applying face masks before appearing in front of the media.
The local media’s obsession with the case and the girls’ flippant attitude has even led to a swathe of tacky memorabilia released to the market to cash-in on the hype surrounding the death of 22-year-old Warisara “Am” Klinjui.
The women seemed so unconcerned while on the run, CCTV footage emerged of the suspects carrying colourful, striped “picnic blanket patterned” backpacks while they casually browsed dresses in a store near the border town of Tachileik in Myanmar.
The bags soon became popular sellers on Thai shelves.
— thapanee ietsrichai (@thapanee3miti) June 3, 2017
The so-called ringleader, 24-year-old Preeyanuch “Preaw” Nonwangchai, has been glorified as a “femme fatale” for allegedly strangling and dismembering Ms Klinjui in cold blood. Along with Kawita “Earn” Ratchada, 25, and Apiwan “Jae” Sattayabundit, 28, they went into hiding until turning themselves in and confessing to the murder.
Preaw’s love affair with Chucky dolls has given a creepy insight into the mind of this alleged smiling killer while local reports suggest she has connections to remote areas in Burma, controlled by guerilla forces and local militia.
The whole debacle has caused such a stir it’s driven many Thais to criticise the handling of the blockbuster case, including the police and media. One network aired mobile phone footage of Preaw having phone sex with her boyfriend, “allowing her moaning sounds to be aired on TV”.
“For the past two weeks, the 24-year-old’s face has been seen on the front page of every newspaper and every TV channel in Thailand,” wrote the Bangkok Post.
People’s attention has been held rapt by the young woman who allegedly killed and dismembered her victim in a viral criminal case.
Some have even described the overwhelming interest in the story as the “Preaw Phenomenon”.
In fact, the merchandise that went on sale following the hype has been dubbed more shocking than the murder or slaughter itself; notably a key chain in the shape of a saw before the image of murder suspect “Preaw” – or “sour” – in English.
“A local TV channel recently conducted interviews with merchants at Sampheng Market in Bangkok who said they were very appreciative that Ms Preeyanuch was holding the pillow in the photo that has gone viral on Thai social media,” reporter Erich Parpart wrote.
Another, a pillow Preaw was holding in police custody, has been described as “despicable”.
— Thai Expats Life (@ThaiExpatsForum) June 10, 2017
“Humans by nature like any story that features sex and aggression as major elements. Preaw’s story happens to have both of them. That’s why her story sells so well,” Asst Prof Munyard Akkarachantachot, an academic from the Faculty of Communication Arts at Chulalongkorn University, told the Bangkok Post.
“Perhaps Preaw’s story holds more of an appeal over more important stories because people love the narrative of the character, the conflict and the emotion behind it,” Ms Munyard explains.
— Chu_SpringNews (@Chu_SpringNews) June 3, 2017
On May 25 the gruesome discovery of Warisara Klinjui buried in a shallow grave by passing villagers in the north-east province of Khon Kaen Khao’s Suan Kwang district, one of the four major cities of Isan, Thailand, shocked the Thai community.
Ms Klinjui’s body was found hacked in half and wrapped in garbage bags and discarded in bins. CCTV footage showed a group of people forcing Ms Klinjui into a car on May 23; it was the last time she was seen alive.
The following day the three women fled to Myanmar, Burma, a 21-hour drive north-east by car. The couple, Wasin Namprom, 22, and Jidarat Promkun, 21, fled to Laos, a smaller trip directly north of Khon Kaen.
The couple were the first to be found; Wasin claiming to be driving the car as the murder took place and Jidarat claiming Preaw asked her to sell the victim’s mobile phone and valuables.
In a press conference at the prison, Ms Klinjui’s sister told media she had spoken to the victim the night she was murdered, and claimed she said she was drunk at a venue in Muang Khon Kaen when Preaw offered her a ride, but she was taken to several venues after the fact but before she was killed.
As the search for the suspects began and CCTV shed light on these women’s whereabouts, their identities were announced and social media began digging. They found Preaw’s Facebook page and couldn’t believe their eyes. Her shoes, handbags, her life of privilege and luxury and overseas trips. She frequently posed with wads of bank notes while a video purported to show her pouring white powder, many have assumed is drug related. None of the women have been charged on drug related offences.
Her Facebook feed was flooded with designer goods, from Yves Saint Laurent, to Gucci and Fendi.
“If you are listening to me, I want to say please come back and serve your time. Do not worry. Please turn yourself into the judicial system. There is no such thing as the death penalty,” Preaw’s sister Prabhasiri Somsri pleaded in a televised interview.
After an intense manhunt, the three women handed themselves over to authorities in the Myanmar town of Tachilek and allegedly confessed to the crime. They had evaded arrest in this small town and got themselves jobs at the local pub before police closed in.
They were charged with cooperating in the premeditated murder of Ms Klinjui, including concealing her dead body, theft, and overstaying their visas in Myanmar.
According to National Police Chief Pol. Gen. Chakthip Chaijinda, Preaw and her accomplices only meant to “teach her [Ms Klinjui] a lesson” because she had blown the lid on one of Preaw’s boyfriend, leading to his arrest on drugs charges. Local media alleged Preaw used and sold crystal methamphetamine and had links to drug bosses in Myanmar.
— Chu_SpringNews (@Chu_SpringNews) June 3, 2017
Police also claimed an unpaid debt of $1500 was the real motive behind the confrontation.
But when the argument escalated in the car, Preaw “strangled the victim out of rage”.
The first to be arrested, Wasin, told police Preaw “throttled” Ms Klinjui in a rented Honda CRV by covering her head with a plastic bag and beating her to death. She had been lured to the car to discuss a job offer, he said.
The group stopped to buy a saw at a hardware shop and planned to dismember the body. They rented a hotel room nearby and moved the body parts back to the car thereafter. They placed sheets of steel on the shallow grave in an attempt to disguise the body, but the foul odour of the decomposing body alerted villagers to the gruesome find.
The girls’ treatment by authorities has angered many for their over-the-top care. Photos circulating on social media show the suspects sleeping in blankets while covered in face masks while they were held at Chiang Rai immigration.
Others show Preaw smiling and giving the peace sign to the camera as officers smile next to her.
“Trust me, there are a lot of people like Preaw out there and they see her as an idol now,” Uajit Virojtrairat, director of the Foundation for Media Studies and a sub-commission member of Broadcasting Media Consumer Protection, told the Bankgkok Post.
Police chief Chaijinda defended his officers, claiming it was “normal” for authorities to allow women to apply makeup before a press conference. Even if they are brutal killers.
Growing up as a poverty-stricken farm girl, Preaw saved her money and eventually spent it on drastic plastic surgery. After her recovery, she began working as a bar girl.
What happens now is anyone’s guess. Preaw and her accomplices have been denied bail and will await trial in custody at Khon Kaen prison, but many fear the interest in the case will lead to copycat killings.
“Since she’s now being accepted by people as a hero instead of the lead suspect in a murder case, many people will try to be like her,” said Ms Uajit.
“For me, that is the most dangerous part. It’s almost like the statement that goes ‘If you can’t be famous, be infamous.’
Reports indicate the death penalty in on the cards for the trio, even though no execution has taken place in Thailand since 2009. As of April 2017, there were 440 inmates on death row in the country.