But for the police, the criminal pattern adopted by this gang is serious and shocking enough for them to treat it as a major case.
The Axe Gang comprises juvenile delinquents suspected of a series of brutal robberies recently.
Unlike other thieves that use guns or knives to force victims to give them money and valuable items, members of this group use an axe as their weapon of choice. The victims are mostly pedestrians on footpaths and bridges.
Police suspect that the group might refer to themselves as the Axe Gang because they are trying to emulate the other infamous Axe Gang, a criminal triad which operated in Shanghai in 1921.
The gang had control over other gangs in Shanghai and used an axe as a weapon. They usually dressed in black suits and sometimes top hats. The Chinese gang’s story has been told in several films popular among Thai teenagers when they were screened here years ago.
However, the axe group of Bangkok does not have signature dress codes. They roamed the city on the back of motorcycles, hunting for victims. And when they found one, they attacked him or her with an axe before stealing the victim’s valuables.
Most of these attacks took place on a pedestrian bridge or by the roadside, especially on Sukhumvit Rd and Thong Lor, an area popular with shopping and dining in Bangkok.
Earlier on June 6, the Thong Lor Police tracked two suspects and arrested one, Natthaphat Khanchan, 19, in Soi Sukhumvit 55, or Soi Thong Lor.
The other suspect, named Narakon Yaemsutchai, also 19, managed to escape arrest. He was later located by police at a different location, in Soi Yen Akat 2 Community near the Khlong Toey area.
Lt Col Sitthisak Nakhamat, deputy chief of the Thong Lor police station’s investigation section, said the arrest was made after a report was filed by a victim, who had been robbed by the gang on June 1 in the Klong Toey district.
Banluerit Bunthara, 31, the victim, told police that two young men followed him on to the pedestrian bridge. One then had him in a headlock, while the other man attempted to chop him with an axe but it mistakenly hit an arm of the criminal holding the victim in a headlock instead.
Shocked and wounded by their own mistake, two criminals then grabbed the victim’s smartphone and wallet before running away to four other men who were waiting downstairs.
Police said they tracked down Narakhon and Natthaphat by checking at the footage on June 1 and sought help from police in Yannawa – believed to be the area where both suspects lived.
Apart from Natthapat and Narakorn, police also arrested two others, aged 17 and 18, who they suspect might have been involved in June 1 robbery. Both suspects lived in the neighbouring area of Yannawa district. Police refused to provide names of suspects.
A breakthrough came over a month later.
Narakorn, who was now robbing victims in the Asoke area with fellow gang members, was caught on July 10 by the Crime Suppression Division (CSD).
Other members of the group fled the scene and remain at large.
Police have now arrested four suspects: Narakorn, Natthaphat and two other unnamed suspects.
Contrary to police theory, the suspects insisted that they neither heard of the legendary Axe Gang of Shanghai, nor were inspired by any movies. They chose the axe as a weapon simply out of practicality. The axe, they told police, looks threatening and is easy to find.
Now, police are expanding their investigation into the criminal history of this gang. Police believe that there must be more victims who probably haven’t reported the crime or that the gang might be possibly linked to other cases filed previously elsewhere.
Those who have been attacked or robbed in this manner are being encouraged to contact the Thong Lor Police immediately. Thong Lor district – the main target of the Axe Gang – has a higher rate of crime because it is a rich neighbourhood with many popular entertainment sites.
People always come to bars or restaurants at night and get drunk, making it easy for criminals to strike. Many of the restaurants and bars also set up tables near the road, making it more easy for criminals to pick their targets, said Lt Col Sitthisak.
To curb crime, more police have been assigned to patrol the area, he said. “The fact that this axe gang was busted quickly is proof of sufficient security to deal with crime that may occur in Thong Lor,” he said.
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