Thai police officers punished for taking photos with murder suspects

Thai police officers punished for taking photos with murder suspects
PHOTO: The Nation/ Asia News Network

Officers transferred for taking photos with murder suspects.

PUBLIC CRITICISM related to the gruesome murder and dismemberment of a Khon Kaen woman, which has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, has increasingly focused on police's handling of the case.

While the three female suspects, charged with murder and dismembering the body, are now in a Khon Kaen prison, police who dealt with the case are facing investigations of their own conduct while two have already been transferred.

Even Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has weighed in on the issue, warning that police should apply the utmost precaution to prevent criticism of their work, which could tarnish the image of the force.

"Police should have enough discretion in their actions, even if they are not breaking the law, which could be criticised by the public," a spokesman quoted Prayut saying.

The premier was apparently referring to immigration police in Chiang Rai province who took photos with the three suspects in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The photos were leaked online and drew negative comments from the public.

Meanwhile, a source revealed two officers - Lt-Colonel Ritthikrai Karakol and Captain Thawatsilpa Boontanla - who posed with the suspects in the photos, had already been transferred to a police operations centre.

The three suspects - Priyanuch Nonwangchai, 24, Kawita Rachada, 26, and Apiwan Satayabundit, 28 - fled to Myanmar after allegedly killing Warisara Klinjui, 22, in late May.

Photo: The Nation/Asia News Network

They surrendered to Myanmar police and were handed over to Chiang Rai police at the weekend. The controversial photos were taken while the trio were held in Chiang Rai.

The Royal Thai Police yesterday set up a panel to look into criticism that an excessive number of officers were involved in the arrest of the three suspects.

Call for probe by Ombudsman

Deputy national police chief Pol General Srivara Ransibrahmana-kul said the panel would look into claims that some officers who were not involved in the arrest were listed in the police report.

The move came after activist Srisuwan Janya filed a complaint with the Ombudsman's Office calling for an investigation into the police report about the arrest.

Srisuwan said photos showed about 10 police were involved in the transfer of the suspects from Myanmar authorities, but in the police report 90 officers were mentioned as participating.

"I wish to ask the ombudsman to investigate whether the number is accurate. Maybe some police who did not work on the case just included their names in the report for their own benefit in their career path."

He also called for an inquiry into why the suspects were taken from Chiang Rai to Bangkok when the crime took place in Khon Kaen.

"There are some figures that used their power to approve a police plane to bring the suspects from Chiang Rai to Bangkok and from Bangkok to Khon Kaen in a total of four flights, at about Bt150,000 (S$6,103) per flight, without any necessity.

"The use of the plane apparently was so the national police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda could hold a press conference on the murder case in Bangkok, which was not the crime scene," he said.

In response, Pol Colonel Krissana Pattanacharoen, deputy police spokesman, said the first part of the police report showed the names of senior police involved in the case and the second part listed officers involved in the arrests.

Officers whose names were on the report would have to appear in the court as witnesses, he said.

Srivara added he had asked the regional immigration police chief, Pol Maj General Bunthit Tungkaseranee, to explain the issue.

Srivara said Bunthit told him the police report was a standard document issued after the transfer of suspects. "Bunthit informed me that 40 police had participated in receiving the suspects but only 10 of them signed the report."

He said he had worked with over 100 officers in previous cases, and those not physically present but assigned to join the investigation were considered part of the case.

Srivara said he asked the immigration police chief to submit a report on the case within a month.

Meanwhile, a police source in Khon Kaen said the testimony of Priyanuch and Wasin Namprom, 22, a male suspect in the case also in custody, differed but the discrepancy would not affect the case.

The source was referring to Priyanuch's account about shops where they reportedly bought equipment to dismember and bury Warisara's body.

 

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