In May 2017, the Thai public became enthralled with a grisly karaoke murder case. Authorities discovered Warisara Klinjui, a young karaoke bar employee, mutilated and buried in a shallow grave in Khon Kaen. Police quickly apprehended the three women responsible for the crime - and the so-called Thai “Murder Babes” became media sensations.
Reportedly, Preeyanuch "Preaw" Nonwangchai, who orchestrated the murder, led a public life of excess. While in police custody, pictures of Preaw and her fellow suspects putting on makeup, wearing night masks, and flashing peace signs painted a public image of remorseless killers who were awarded special treatment. Soon, the young women were in every newspaper and a television staple.
Some people in Thailand expressed shock and anger at the attention devoted to the case. The Thai Murder Babes even inspired merchandise and souvenirs. The case has sparked a debate over the role of the media in reporting crimes, and whether the media are trivializing real-life tragedies as entertainment.
Warisara Klinjui Was Discovered In A Shallow Grave
Coworkers last saw Warisara “Amm” Klinjui, a 22-year-old employee of a karaoke bar, on May 23, 2017. CCTV footage from that night shows three suspects forcing her into a car. Authorities discovered Klinjui's remains on May 25, buried in a shallow grave. Metal sheets had been placed on top of the burial site, but a foul smell alerted some passersby. Investigators found the body cut in half, wrapped in garbage bags, and stuffed into bins. Police were able to identify the body as Klinjui's based on her distinctive tattoos.
Preeyanuch Nonwangchai Allegedly Orchestrated The Murder
Police considered Kawita Rachada, 25, Apiwan Sattayabundit, 28, and couple Wasin Namprom, 22, and Jidarat Promkhun, 21, key accomplices in the murder of Warisara Klinjui. Allegedly, 24-year-old Preeyanuch “Preaw” Nonwangchai directed the murder.
Nonwangchai grew up on a poor farm but underwent extensive plastic surgery before becoming a bar hostess. Following the murder, the media framed Nonwangchai as something of a femme fatale. The public became so obsessed with her story that some reporters called it the "Preaw Phenomenon."
A Confrontation Turned Deadly
Nonwangchai coerced Klinjui into a rented car and then turned violent. Reportedly, Nonwangchai sought retribution for a false drug tip from Klinjui that lead to police arresting Nonwangchai’s husband. Once in the car, Nonwangchai covered Klinjui's head with a plastic bag. She strangled and beat Klinjui to death. Nonwangchai later alleged to police the murder was an accident, and she had only intended to scare Klinjui.
After the murder, the group stopped at a hardware store to purchase a saw. From there, they took the body to a hotel room where, according to driver Wasin Namprom, Nonwangchai dismembered Klinjui. Then they wrapped the body in garbage bags before placing into bins. Near the Thai resort of Khon Kaen, they buried Klinjui in a shallow grave with steel sheets over top the body.
Nonwangchai And Her Accomplices Fled To Myanmar
The day after the murder, Nonwangchai, Rachada, and Sattayabundit ran off to Myanmar. Namprom and Promkhun, the couple who had driven the car, made a run for Laos, where police apprehended them before locating the others.
Later, Nonwangchai and her friends turned themselves in after being captured on camera at a clothing store in the border town of Tachileik. Nonwangchai told police they had worked at a karaoke bar for two days but had to retreat to smaller villages as pressure from authorities grew.