Supreme Court acquits Kalasin police for covered up murder of 17-year-old boy during drugs war

The Supreme Court has dismissed the charges against 6 Kalasin police officers over the hanging of a 17-year-old youth, who allegedly stole a motorcycle during the drug war.  It stated that witness testimony was unreliable, unconvincing and not credible, and gave the accused the benefit of the doubt.

On 11 Oct 2018, the Criminal Court, Ratchadaphisek Road, read the verdict of the Supreme Court for the murder of Kiattisak Thitbunkhrong and its cover-up during the war on drugs.  The case was brought by the Public Prosecutor of the Department of Special Litigation 1 against 6 defendants, former police officers of Kalasin Provincial Police Station, on charges of first degree murder, moving a corpse for the purpose of concealing the cause of death and acting improperly in their position as officers with the power to investigate criminal cases to help a person or persons to escape punishment.

Thaipost newspaper reported that the court summoned from prison the first 3 defendants, Pol Sen Sgt Maj Angkhan Khammunna, aged 54, Pol Sen Sgt Maj Sutthinan Nonthing, 49, and Pol Sen Sgt Maj Phansin Uppanan, 48. The 4th defendant, Pol Lt Col Samphao Indi, 57, former Inspector (Suppression), Kalasin Provincial Police Station, and 6th defendant Pol.Lt.Col. Sumit Nansathit, 51, former Deputy Superintendent of Kalasin Provincial Police Station, who had been given bail, were also summoned to court, while the 5th defendant Pol. Col. Montri Sibunlue, 68, former Superintendent of Kalasin Provincial Police Station, is on the run (all ranks at the time).

The Court read the verdict of the Supreme Court, which stated that the prosecutor had only one witness and no eyewitness. The testimony was scrutinized many times, and was found to be unreliable and not credible. Moreover, the 6 defendants have always denied the offence. It is therefore doubtful if they really committed the offence, and so were given the benefit of the doubt.  The prosecuting statement and prosecutor sounded unreasonable. The court ordered the case against all 6 defendants dismissed.

This killing occurred on 22-23 July 2004. The 1st-3rd and 6th defendants together allegedly killed Kiattisak Thitbunkhrong, aged just over 17, accused of stealing a motorcycle, by taking him out of Kalasin Provincial Police Station, strangling him to death and hanging the corpse to cover up the crime. All 6 defendants denied all charges.

On 6 September, the Court issued an arrest warrant for Pol. Col. Montri, the 5th defendant and confiscated his bail of 1 million baht because he did not attend the verdict of the Supreme Court.

The Court of First Instance issued its verdict on 30 July 2012, sentencing the 1st-3rd defendants to the death penalty for murder and moving a corpse for the purpose of concealing the cause of death. The 6th defendant received a life sentence for murder. The 5th defendant was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment for acting improperly as an officer with the power to investigate criminal cases and the 4th defendant was acquitted. The prosecutor, joint prosecutor, and the defendants appealed. The Court of Appeal examined the case, held a consultation meeting and issued an amended verdict. The 1st-3rd defendants were found guilty of first-degree murder and moving a corpse for the purpose of concealing the cause of death. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Court of First Instance’s sentence of death for the 1st and 3rd defendants, but the testimony of the 2nd defendant was beneficial to the case and his sentence was reduced to 50 years imprisonment. In addition, the 4th defendant was guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death, but the defendant gave testimony beneficial to the case and the sentence was mitigated to life imprisonment. The 5th and 6th defendants were found guilty of acting improperly as officers with the power to investigate criminal cases but the Court of First Instance’s sentence of 7 years imprisonment was judged too heavy and was reduced to 5 years imprisonment.

This killing occurred in 2004, while the drug suppression policy of the government of Thaksin Shinawatra was being implemented. Many deaths and disappearances occurred at that time.

The Human Rights Lawyers Association stated that this case is an example reflecting the improper conduct of police officers and is rare in that the state officials were brought before the judicial process, but it was not easy. During the 12 years that the case was being heard, the relatives of the victim had to travel and file complaints with many agencies. There were repeated threats made against relatives and witnesses. Important witnesses disappeared, and some died in mysterious circumstances.

Source: 
https://prachatai.com/journal/2018/10/79102