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A body was cremated in place of a woman accused of faking her  death

Phuket Mystery: Tsunami Body Switch Alleged

Friday, March 27, 2009
Phuketwan on a fascinating tsunami case

POLICE have arrested a Thai couple who allegedly pulled off a remarkable body-switch during the 2004 tsunami to avoid massive debts.

And if police claims prove correct, whose body was burned in a cremation ceremony at the height of the intriguing deception?

The husband allegedly found a body in the water off Ranong days after the tsunami, planted his wife's credit card and other ID on it, the carried out an amazing scam.

His wife, meanwhile, had cosmetic surgery in China that removed a birthmark and changed her features, to start a new life and avoid debts of eight billion baht.

Kankanit Angkinant, 48, was arrested yesterday in Bangkok, amid claims that she faked her death in the 2004 tsunami. Her children claimed on two life insurance policies.

Her husband, Charnchai Chinsiri, 47, was also arrested.

The body was reported to have been cremated at a temple in Phuket, but other reports said the ceremony took place in Ranong.

As well as leaving people wondering whether other body-switch scams were carried out, the case raises serious questions about the potential for more wrong identifications.

The case comes with the Thai Tsunami Victim Identification unit facing crisis, with 19 staff unpaid since October and a meeting with representatives of 13 countries scheduled for Monday.

Viewers of Thai television watched last night as cameras followed the police when they raided homes looking for Khun Kankanit and Khun Charnchai yesterday.

Among the questions now is: what has been done to discover the true identity of the woman whom police say was cremated in Khun Kankani's name?

At least five sets of cremated remains are among the 380 bodies being held by the Thai Tsunami Victim Identification team at Bang Maruan in Phang Nga, indicating that more incorrect identifications have been made.

Phuketwan reported yesterday that the TTVI unit appears to have run out of money, with 19 staff unpaid since October.

The full account of the remarkable body-switch came today from Police Colonel Kittisak Sukwattanakul, Chief of CSD Division 5, based in Bangkok, who headed the investigation team.

He said Khun Charnchai went to Paknam police station in Ranong on December 31, 2004, five days after the tsunami, and reported that his wife was missing.

That same day, Colonel Kittisak said, a fisherman reported to the nearby Kaper police station, saying that he had found a woman's body while out fishing.

Credit cards and other ID information on the body indicated that it was Khun Kankanit.

Because of the identification found on the body, police neglected to take fingerprints, Colonel Kittisak said.

Khun Charnchai identified the body as that of his wife, and was allowed to take it. On January 4, the body was cremated at Wat Suwankiriwiharn, in Ranong, the colonel said. (Some reports may have confused this with Wat Suwankiri on Phuket.)

Officials issued a death certificate in Khun Kankanit's name on the same day.

The colonel said he did not know where the cremated remains are now, or the identity of the woman cremated as Khun Kankanit.

The couple were attempting to escape the consequences of bad business deals involving more than 50 creditors seeking about eight billion baht, the colonel said.

Khun Kankanit had a series of cosmetic operations in China to remove a large birthmark and change her facial features, and returned to Thailand, changing her identity with fake papers more than once.

Police probing the fraud were suspicious about the circumstances of her death five years ago.

Officers finally achieved a breakthrough when she attempted to copy the ID of another woman, matching her live fingerprints to those of the ''dead'' Khun Kankanit.

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Who doesn't love a good body-snatching story?

Posted by berrian on March 27, 2009 12:17


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