Thai police officer in detention and torture case could face trial outside the jurisdiction of his home

A Thai cop and six of his colleagues who allegedly suffocated a suspect to death could face trial in a special court outside the province where he worked, an investigator has said, as Thailand’s justice system grapples with its inability to punish corrupt police officers.

Moving the case would ensure there is no favoritism, a human rights expert said, amid a public outcry over how the case was handled. Police initially attempted to crack down on the incident, local media claimed, and in a very irregular move the accused cop was allowed to defend his actions to the media when he surrendered after being in leak.

Pol. Col. Anek Taosupab, deputy head of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), said he would submit a request to the Nakhonsawan Provincial Court asking that the case against the former officer, Thitisan Utthanaphon, and his colleagues be transferred to Bangkok.

“We will request the transfer [the case] to the Central Criminal Court for corruption and misconduct cases on September 6 and detain them in one of Bangkok’s prisons, ”Anek told BenarNews.

Thitisan was the police chief of Muang district in Nakhonsawan province, 250 km north of Bangkok. His co-defendants worked with him at the district police station.

A video posted online last week showed Thitisan and his colleagues allegedly covering the face of a drug suspect with six layers of plastic bags and demanding a bribe of US $ 60,700, during questioning.

Anek said a hospital confirmed in its final autopsy report that the suspect died of suffocation. The police have been charged with embezzlement and murder by means of torture – the latter charge carries the death penalty.

“This case is not difficult to resolve as there are CCTV footage as evidence,” Anek said.

Thitisan, the 39-year-old former police colonel, is also under investigation by anti-corruption authorities for his reported holdings of 230 million baht ($ 7.02 million).

The former cop, nicknamed “Jo Ferrari” because of his penchant for luxury sports cars, owns at least 29 cars, including a Lamborghini, and owns a luxury home in Bangkok on a 2-acre lot.

“The police broke the laws”

A human rights expert, meanwhile, said Anek’s request to transfer the case would be a good thing, as, as local media claimed, Thitisan had a romantic relationship with the girl. from his former boss – the commander of the 6th Regional Police Bureau which oversees eight provinces, including Nakhonsawan.

A file transfer “is probably a good thing because it would prevent suspects from receiving help from local authorities,” Chamnan Chanreung, former chairman of Amnesty International, told BenarNews.

“Keeping him away from his girlfriend’s father will reduce the chances that Thitisan will get illegal help.”

As it stands, the case highlights the many problems in the country’s justice system, said Nuttakorn Vititanon, an academic at Chiang Mai Rajabhat University.

“The case of ‘Superintendent Jo’ reflects the flaws in the country’s big picture of justice. The police broke the laws, ”Nuttakorn, professor at the university’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, told BenarNews.

A Thai rights group, the Cross Cultural Foundation, said the police investigation must be transparent and free from interference.

“This is not the first death in custody in this country. It’s just a movie that was filmed, ”said Pornpen Kongkachonkiet, director of the foundation, in A declaration Last week.

“Public confidence in the police is at an all-time low. It is yet another reminder of the urgent need to end impunity for the police and the police force to demonstrate to the public – who pay their salaries – that they are working for them.

“Embarrassing and incredible”

The way the Thitisan case has been handled so far has not inspired confidence, according to several comments on social media.

Thais have criticized police for ignoring the death in custody for nearly three weeks after it occurred on August 5. 24 that the police decided to act.

Many Thais were even more enraged when television footage showed young police officers waving to Thitisan as he was escorted after surrendering to his boss. The former district police had escaped a manhunt for two days.

Then, to the shock of many citizens, National Police Chief Suwat Changyodsuk at a press conference referred to Thitisan by his nickname “Jo” and allowed him to speak to reporters by putting him on loudspeaker. .

This gave the former cop a platform to describe the alleged enhanced interrogation of the drug suspect as a public duty to prevent Thai youth from becoming drug addicts.

Prajak Kong, a political scientist, was one of many on social media to draw attention to the fact that Thitisan was allowed to defend himself to journalists.

“I would like to ask if ordinary people have been photographed as having tortured others to death,… [would] Did the police set up a stage for him to sit down and interview reporters? … It’s embarrassing and unbelievable, ”Prajak said on Twitter.

A retired senior police officer said the National Police Bureau should be decentralized.

“There must be a complete overhaul, abolishing central controls. Instead, local police should report to elected administrations, ”Songsak Thititarawat, a former station chief in Payao province, told BenarNews.

“It would reduce office politics, the struggle for promotion and internal rivalry within the National Police Office. “

Until then, the police are unlikely to turn on any of their own, a policeman who asked not to be named because he wanted to protect his privacy told BenarNews.

“Tigers will not eat tiger meat. “

Thelma J. Longworth