Thai Police Pursue Death-by-Torture Charge against 7 Cops

Wilawan Watcharasakwet
Bangkok
2021-11-02
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Thai Police Pursue Death-by-Torture Charge against 7 Cops Thitisan Utthanaphon, a former Thai district police chief, leaves the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok after surrendering to authorities investigating allegations that he and six others had suffocated a drug suspect to death, Aug. 26, 2021.
AFP

Thai police plan to press four charges, including death by torture – a capital crime – against a former district police chief nicknamed “Jo Ferrari” and six other officers in connection with a drug suspect’s suffocation during an interrogation, officials said Tuesday.

The police investigation’s report and case file will be handed to the prosecution on Wednesday, according to Gen. Suchart Teerasawat, the deputy national police chief.

Thitisan Utthanaphon, a former police colonel who led the Muang district police station in Nakhon Sawan province, and six of his fellow officers were arrested or turned themselves in after a video posted online showed them allegedly putting plastic bags over the suspect’s head on Aug. 6, beating him and demanding a bribe of 2 million baht (U.S. $60,700).

“Re Jo’s case, we have a conclusion today … seven suspects being seven policemen, have been charged with malfeasance, misconduct, joint murder by means of torture and group coercion,” Suchart told reporters, referring to Thitisan by his nickname.

On Aug. 30, a hospital in Nakhon Sawan changed its original autopsy report to note that the suspect, Jirapong Tanapat, 24, had died of suffocation and not a drug overdose. The second autopsy’s findings were confirmed last month.

The capital-crime charge could carry the death penalty if the seven are convicted, according to Thailand’s penal code. All seven suspects have been remanded to a Bangkok prison.

Thitisan surrendered to senior officers on Aug. 26, after a two-day manhunt. During a news conference following his arrest, national Police Chief Suwat Changyodsuk allowed him to talk to reporters via speaker phone.

The former district chief used the opportunity to present what he described as the enhanced interrogation of the drug suspect, saying it was undertaken as a public duty to prevent Thai youths from becoming addicts.

On Tuesday, Suchart said authorities were investigating Thitisan’s 131 million baht ($3.9 million) in assets believed to be linked to the seizure and sale at auction of hundreds of cars allegedly imported illegally.

Thitisan, who earned nicknamed “Jo Ferrari” because of his fondness for luxury cars, possessed at least 29 including a Lamborghini, along with a luxury home in Bangkok on a two-acre lot.

During his 2011-2017 stint in Narathiwat, a border province in Thailand’s Deep South, he led efforts to arrest suspects and confiscate as many as 400 cars smuggled in from nearby Malaysia, which had a lower tax rate, police said.

“We are dealing with the Anti-Money Laundering Office to investigate him, but we had a problem because he is in a jail cell and he has not cooperated with us,” Suchart said. “We found he allegedly wrongly reported hundreds of arrests involving smuggled cars even though we cannot verify where hundreds of them were coming from. We are looking into it with 80 percent progress.”

The AMLO could freeze Thitisan’s assets if it finds that they were obtained illegally, Suchart said.

BenarNews could not immediately reach Thitisan’s lawyer for comment on Tuesday.

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