He could have shot soldiers: Police Chief

Defending the soldier who shot dead a youth Lahu activist on suspicion of selling drugs, the national police chief said the activist could have shot soldiers.

On 28 March 2017, at the National Police Headquarters in Bangkok, Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda, chief of the Royal Thai Police (RTP), announced that the police are now investigating the CCTV footage at the checkpoint where the Lahu activist Chaiyapoom Pasae was killed on 17 March.

Confirming the statement of the 3rd Region Army chief Lt Gen Vijak Siribansop, he said the CCTV footage will not be disclosed to the public as it could affect the investigation process.

The case is ‘not complicated’ and is an ‘ordinary drug-related case’, said Chakthip.

The national police chief added “he could have shot [military] officers, if a soldier had not shot him.”

He confirmed the claims of Pol Lt Gen Poolsap Prasertsak, Region 5 Police Commissioner, who recently stated that the authorities have solid evidence to prove that Chaiyapoom was an active drug dealer in Chiang Mai. This allegedly includes the bank statement of the slain activist and findings of an undercover police officer.

The police report contradicts the finding of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), who found that that most of Chaiyapoom’s income came from selling coffee beans.

According to an army report, on 17 March Chaiyapoom tried to escape custody after soldiers arrested him and Pongsanai Saengtala, 19, the driver of a car in which authorities allegedly found 2,800 methamphetamine pills.

After the young activist hid in a nearby bush and attempted to throw a grenade at the soldiers who followed him, one of the soldiers shot him dead

Chaiyapoom was a well-known activist from the Young Seedlings Network Camp in Chiang Dao District. He was involved in numerous campaigns to promote the rights of ethnic Lahu and other vulnerable ethnic minorities in northern Thailand to gain citizenship, health care, and access to education. He also spoke out against abuses by the Thai security forces against his community during anti-drug operations.

A police officer inspecting the body of Chaiyapoom (Photo from TNN News)