Police are reported to have widened their surveillance of CCTV footage into other provinces this week as a reported meeting between the Thai army chief Apirat Kongsompong and Provincial police chiefs from Regions 1 and 2 on Monday suggested that the killer may have reached Chonburi and the eastern provinces.
Thailand’s police chief this week expressed fears that the gold shop robber who murdered three innocent people on Thursday, January 9th may have slipped out of the country. He squarely blamed the media for tipping off the suspect and warned that he would consider disciplinary action against police officers who divulged sensitive and confidential information to media sources.
On Friday, there was no press conference in Lopburi in relation to the search for the gold shop killer who mowed down three people including a two-year-old toddler on Thursday the 9th of January. Reporters who gathered outside the main police station were dispersed.
This followed comments by the National Police Chief General Chakthip Chaijinda on Wednesday in which he indicated that police fear that the perpetrator may have fled Thailand and crossed the border into a neighbouring country.
Police chief critical of media coverage
The police chief was highly critical of the media particularly online media, for its coverage of the incident and subsequent police investigation.
He suggested that information, including perhaps classified information, was disseminated by the media which may have alerted the killer to police efforts to apprehend him.
‘This is because of the media’s reporting, which might have tipped the suspect off that we were getting close to identifying him,’ the police chief revealed. ‘I would like to ask the press to use discretion in reporting so that it does not jeopardize the investigation.’
Threatened disciplinary action against officers releasing confidential and sensitive information
General Chakthip also suggested that he was considering disciplinary action against police officers who may have leaked sensitive information to the media.
He especially warned about information relating to the status of the investigation and the identity of suspects whom police had interrogated.
Helicopter flight to oversee the investigation
The stormy comments from the police chief follow his efforts this week to oversee the investigation which caused him to fly by helicopter to a stadium in Lopburi where he was taken by car to the investigation command centre.
The comments also, understandably, indicate frustration at the failure to bring the culprit to justice.
Public pressure to find the killer
General Chakthip himself indicated that there was considerable public pressure and interest concerning the robbery and murder which has generated outrage across the kingdom.
A reward of over ฿500,000 was offered for information leading to the apprehension of the attacker.
Blamed the media squarely for lack of progress
Prior to the press conference in which the police chief blamed the media for the lack of progress in the investigation, it was reported widely that police suspect that attacker may have had former links to the military or at least have been expertly trained in the use of the sophisticated weapon used in the crime which was fitted with a silencer.
Confident claims from last weekend turned to dust
Last weekend, there were reports that police even knew the identity of the killer suggesting that he was lying low in Lopburi. At one stage, police sources were promising an arrest within days.
Widened surveillance into neighbouring provinces
All this changed this week as police were reported to be widening their request for CCTV footage and surveillance extending into neighbouring provinces and beyond in an effort to track down the red and white Yamaha Fino motorcycle used to carry out the attack on the Robinson Department Store.
On Tuesday, the Lopburi police chief, Police Major General Natthaphon Supharason seemed to confirm this when he said: ‘Investigators have extended their hunt to cover nearby provinces, including Saraburi, Ang Thong and Chai Nat.’
Police also at the time appealed for the public to come forward with any personal or dashcam footage showing the red and white motorbike used by the killer.
Reports that the army chief met regional police chiefs on Monday at the First Army headquarters in Bangkok
Speculation also mounted in relation to the killer and his whereabouts when it was reported on Monday that the police chiefs from Provincial Police Divisions 1 and 2 had met the army chief General Apirat Kongsompong at the First Army Region headquarters in Bangkok.
This prompted some to speculate that the killer may have reached Chonburi and eastern Thailand under the remit of Provincial Police Region 2.
13 registered gun owners called in, no matches
On Wednesday, the investigation reached another dead end when 13 registered gun owners in the area with the same type of weapon were called in.
Police forensics found that none of the guns matched the one used by the killer in ballistic tests.
Police have also confirmed that the killer fired 13 shots in all as he took three lives within minutes on January 9th and wounded 4 others.
All is quiet in Lopburi for now
On Friday, press reports suggest that there was a small police presence in front of the Robinsons Department Store in Lopburi.
Motorcycles are banned from parking near the entrance and those that do are quickly locked and secured by security.
The store is reporting that business has been slow to get back to normal after the havoc of last week with some trade now picking up during working hours. The evenings, however, are still far quieter than they were before the attack when a balaclava-clad devil on a red and white motorbike took his toll.