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Thailand: Trial begins for couple accused in murder of Japanese national

Phornchanok Chaiyapa
Phornchanok Chaiyapa

THAILAND (TR) – The trial for a Thai man and woman accused of murdering a male Japanese national, who went missing four years ago, began in Samut Prakan Province on Tuesday, reports Nippon News Network (Jan. 24).

In 2014, police arrested Phornchanok Chaiyapa, 50, and her boyfriend, Somchai Kaewbangyang, also 50, over the killing of Yoshinori Shimato, a 79-year-old teacher who went missing in September of that year, and abandoning of his body.

On October 22 of that year, Shimato’s dismembered body was found stuffed into four sacks dumped in a canal in Samut Prakan, near Bangkok.

Upon his arrest, Somchai admitted to the allegations. However, at the trial on Tuesday he denied the charges, saying, “It is difficult for me to say.” Phornchanok has declined to comment.

Missing in September, 2014

According to the Bangkok Post (Oct. 25, 2014), Shimato’s son lodged a missing persons report on his father with police on October 14, 2014.

During the subsequent investigation, police found more than one dozen suspicious withdrawals from a bank account of Shimato over a two-week period.

On the same day the transactions were discovered, a court approved an arrest warrant for Pornchanok and Somchai on suspicion of murder and concealing a body.

Pornchanok denied any wrongdoing, saying she took Shimato a hospital after he became sick on September 21. After they left the hospital, he disappeared, she said.

Somchai, however, confessed to the crimes. Initially, he denied killing Shimato. But he later told police that he smothered him to death with a pillow.

He also said that after he chopped up the body at the house of Pornchanok in Samut Prakan on September 21 he worked together with Pornchanok to place the pieces in four bags and dump them in the canal to hide the crime.

Police found the severed corpse of Shimato in the waterway after questioning Somchai.

Pornchanok and Somchai have a daughter, aged in her 20s. Knives that are believed to have been used to carve up Shimato’s body were found at the residence of their daughter.

Marriage to Katsutoshi Tanaka

In 2002, Pornchanok married another Japanese national, Katsutoshi Tanaka, who was said to have died after falling down stairs in a suburb of Bangkok in 2003.

At that time, police ruled out foul play. However, following the emergence of the case involving Shimato, who was also married to Pornchanok at one point, a woman claiming to be a daughter of Tanaka requested that the investigation resume.

While in custody in the Shimato case, Somchai admitted to killing Tanaka by pushing him down stairs and applying pressure to his neck by pushing his head through balusters of the stairs. After the death of Tanaka, Phornchanok received an insurance payout amounting to the equivalent of 10 million yen.

Upon his arrest in 2014, Somchai said jealousy over the relationships Tanaka and Shimato were engaged in with Somchai drove him to commit the crimes.