'Missing organs' from dead teenage cadet: Thai army denies suspicious circumstances

Phramongkutklao Hospital has dismissed concerns surrounding the recent death and reported "missing organs" of an 18-year-old military student.

Phakhapong "Moei" Tanyakan, a first-year student at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School (AFAPS), died on October 17 under what the family believes were suspicious circumstances.

Lt Colonel Narut Thongsorn, a senior doctor at the hospital's Army Institute of Pathology, said yesterday: "His body had no signs of injuries at all so we partially removed some of his organs, like his brain and heart, for detailed examination."

He said the organs could be returned to the family now that the examination had been completed. "The results show he died of acute heart failure," Narut said.

The hospital held a press conference yesterday in response to the complaint from Phakhapong's family members. They said they secretly submitted Phakhapong's body for a second autopsy and were told some of his organs had been removed.

This week, the family contacted the media to voice their concerns about what they claim were irregularities in Phakhapong's death. AFAPS commander Maj-General Kanokpong Channuan told reporters that the issue of missing organs was a medical matter linked to the first autopsy.

Kanokpong insisted that the fatal heart failure suffered by Phakhapong was not related to punishment he suffered three months ago. Phakhapong's elder sister, Supicha Tanyakan, said yesterday that her sibling almost died on August 23 because of punishment he received at the school. "He fell unconscious and demonstrated low vital signs that day," Supicha said.

She added that her brother later told her that he had been punished because he and his friend were on a path prohibited by his seniors. "His senior forced him to put his legs up and his head down in a sauna room for hours," she said. Supreme Commander General Thanchaiyan Srisuwan summoned Kanokpong to explain the case after the scandal broke.

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is a former Army chief, said he was sad to hear about Phakhapong's death. "I've heard that he fell ill quite often and received medical help at the school from time to time," Prayut said. Kanokpong said Phakhapong took part in the school activities as usual on October 16 but then reported accelerated breathing.

"So, he went to the first-aid room. CCTV has recorded all that," Kanokpong said. He said Phakhapong fainted on October 16 and 17 "and we sent him to the hospital where he was pronounced dead".

Asked about the incident in which Phakhapong was punished and almost died a few months ago, Kanokpong admitted that the punishment had taken place.

"But we have already taken disciplinary action against those involved," Kanokpong said, adding that the case was also not related to the symptoms that caused Phakhapong's death last month.

Prayut said if any investigation showed Phakhapong did not die naturally, those responsible for his death would face a stiff penalty.