Male model must now serve eight years in prison while the host of the party in Nonthaburi and his girlfriend must serve 5 years and four months behind bars for the death of ‘Lunlabelle’ in September 2019. Two of the accused were acquitted before the Appeals Court on Tuesday for having no part in her death which the court interpreted as an abusive plot that went tragically and horribly wrong for all concerned.
Thailand’s appeals court, on Tuesday, ordered four people convicted in relation to the tragic death of Thitma Noraphanpiphat, a hostess or pretty who died after a party in Nonthaburi, to be taken into custody while it acquitted two people at the party who it accepted were not part of a plot or conspiracy which led to the young woman’s death in September 2019. The case shocked Thailand and on Tuesday, the primary defendant in the case, a male model, had a sentence of eight years in prison upheld for illegally detaining Ms Thitma against her will as well as his role in her demise through alcohol poisoning after the young woman was plied with drinks at a private party in a plot to get her drunk.
On Tuesday, the Appeals Court in Bangkok upheld an eight-year sentence against 27-year-old Rachadech Wongtabutr, a male model who was convicted and sentenced before Thonburi Criminal Court in October 2020 for abducting then 26-year-old Ms Thitma Noraphanpiphat from a private party in the Bang Bua Thong area of Nonthaburi and contributing to her death.
The 26-year-old woman had been employed as a ‘pretty’ or hostess at the party but is understood to have been the victim of a conspiracy to get her to consume alcohol perpetrated by friends of Mr Rachadech some of whom also had stiff sentences confirmed by the court on Tuesday.
Death of young woman shocked and appalled Thailand, sparking a debate about the grey area of hostess work and the dangers involved in it
The death of ‘Lunlabelle’ on the night of the 16th of September and the morning of the 17th of September 2019 shocked Thailand and raised questions about the borderline activity linked with such hostess jobs which led to a flood of similar cases being reported in the years afterwards.
The incident drew representations from many young women who defended their works as ‘presenters’ or ‘party hostesses’ against a common misconception that the role of ‘hostess’ was a euphemism for discreet prostitution in a country with a large sex for-sale industry with many subtle variations of the occupation.
The death of the young woman prompted a more active and vigilant response to similar cases in the years since from the Royal Thai Police, where women working in the role who found they were abused or maltreated, had their reports promptly and diligently investigated.
Ms Thitma or Lunlabelle’s story evoked strong public sympathy in 2019 as she left behind a three-year-old daughter called ‘Bam Bam’ who referred to her mother as ‘mammy belle’ and a family for whom she was the main breadwinner.
Two defendants cleared as the court accepted their pleadings that they were unaware of what was happening at the party when the woman was taken
On Tuesday, two of the defendants before the court were cleared of the charges against them and for which they had previously been sentenced to five years and four months each by the lower court.
The court accepted the pleadings of 28-year-old Kritsada Lohitdi and 36-year-old Koset Ritnithiroek that they were not a party to any plot or conspiracy as they were unaware of the young woman’s departure from the gathering in the hands of Mr Rachadech while the young woman was in a semi-conscious or even comatose state as a result of ingesting alcohol.
On Tuesday, the court ordered all four defendants sentenced to prison to be taken into custody after turning down a request for temporary release.
The court ruled that all four represented substantial flight risks given the serious nature of the crime and the penalty imposed.
27-year-old male model pleaded innocence after his conviction in October 2020. Now faces 8 years in jail for the illegal detention of Thitma and her death
Mr Rachadech, the male model, in October 2020, when sentenced by Thonburi Criminal Court, insisted on his innocence while also claiming to respect the authority of the court.
‘I’ll keep fighting. I respect the court’s ruling. The truth is the truth,’ he told the media at the time.
In September 2019, police investigating the death of Ms Thitma or ‘Lunlabelle’ had initially found her body on the morning of September 17th lying on a sofa in the reception area of Mr Rachadech’s luxury apartment complex.
Investigating officers later recovered CCTV footage showing him lifting the young woman into the building and up to his apartment while later bringing her back down again.
He denied suggestions from the police that he may have sexually assaulted the young woman and was not charged on this basis after a medical examination found no evidence of this.
Admitted undressing the young woman but vigorously and successfully denied sexually assaulting her, a claim later supported by medical tests on the body
He did however admit to undressing the young ‘pretty’ and dressing her again before bringing her dead body down to the lobby area of his apartment complex on September 17th 2019.
Death of ‘pretty’ Lunlabelle has caused heartbreak for a Thai family and a three-year-old little girl
Police later discovered that Ms Thitma had died from severe alcohol poisoning with a massive 418 milligrams per 100 millilitres in her system which medical experts explained was sufficient to leave her in an unconscious state and ultimately to kill her.
3 others including party host and his girlfriend also taken into custody to begin jail sentences for the tragic death of the hostess at the ill-fated event
Mr Rachadech was found guilty by the court of illegally detaining the victim against her will in addition to his part in the conspiracy to cause Ms Thitma to consume a large volume of alcohol in party drinks.
The family of the woman made representations to the Ministry of Justice and police agencies to have the investigation into her death given priority.
A second autopsy confirmed that she had not been sexually assaulted but had died as a result of consuming an excessive amount of alcohol.
The three other defendants aside from Mr Rachadech had their sentences of five years and four months upheld on Tuesday.
These included the owner of the residence where the party took place, 30-year-old Mr Chaiyaphon Phanna as well as his girlfriend 25-year-old Phikunthong Bunpha and 34-year-old Nathi Sathitphongsathaphon.
About the Author
Carla Boonkong is a magazine writer who writes extensively about woman’s issues in Thailand. One of her key subjects is the story of Thailand’s growing influence in the world and the role played by Thai women in the process. She is now a staff writer with Thai Examiner.com in Bangkok. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.