‘Extortionist’ karaoke bar shut down by police

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A karaoke bar in Bangkok’s Lak Si district accused of heavily overcharging customers has been closed by police who say staff members menaced customers for not settling bills or seized their assets as guarantees for full payment.

Prachachuen police yesterday charged three members of Melody Karaoke bar with extortion. The suspects; Thanakorn Paipa, Amphai Namnai and Ratchanee Dassadeethong  admitted to “surrounding” two customers who lodged a complaint on Tuesday, but denied extorting money from them.

Bar manager Aphichet Thaweelarp has been charged with operating an unlicensed  business. Police say he admitted the charge, which carries a prison term and/or a fine.

Commander of a police team from the Economic and Cyber Crimes Division (ECD), Pol Major Jaturong Phummarin, said the bar owners, if found guilty, faced two offences of illegal activities aimed at overcharging service fees and failure to inform customers of service rates – offences which could earn a jail term or heavy fines.

Office of Consumer Protection Board (OCPB) deputy secretary general Nopphapadol Mekmekha, said the board would take action against the bar owners if they failed to meet with the complainants by October 26 to negotiate over the bill payment.

Prachachuen police chief Kitikhun Phoolsombat said the bar was registered to Samrit Praphothitheti, a Maha Sarakham native.

Asked if the OCPB would take action against other karaoke bars or other entertainment businesses with similar overcharging, OCPB senior official Suwit Wijitsopha said his agency could take action only when complaints were lodged by customers, but it was the Department of Internal Trade who regulated service fees and took action against violations.

After the case has become known, a man yesterday lodged a complaint with Prachachuen police, saying the Melody Karaoke charged him Bt25,000 in August, an amount reduced from the original Bt47,000, after male staffers surrounded him and prevented him from leaving a room.

Prayoon Phongprayoon, a senior manager of nearby The Mall Ngarm Wongwan branch, said he ordered a bottle of whisky, a number of drink mixers, a plate of candies, and two hostesses in a fourhour session. He said he noticed something wrong when a waitor said he had ordered three bottles of whisky and four packs of drink mixers, all bottles with caps opened.

When refusing to pay the full amount, Prayoon said four to five men entered the room and prevented him from leaving while demanding for Bt47,000 from him. A manager allowed him to make a phone call outside the room, which he faked all along. Prayoon said the staff “allowed” him make a phone call after he told them he knew a senior officer at the Prachachuen station. He was let out after paying Bt25,000 to Melody Karaoke.

The Nation

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