A range of investigations into the handling of the case has now been established with agreements and disagreements over a myriad of issues. However, the simple question that the public wants answered is what is being done about seeking justice for the dead policeman as the number of investigations spiral and the story becomes further embroiled in controversy? Now, a police investigation in Chiang Mai into the ‘unnatural’ death of one of two key witnesses to the case on July 30th last has revealed the theft and destruction of the man’s mobile phone by an associate, just hours after he was brought to the hospital where he died.
Last week, the Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha and the National Police Chief, Chakthip Chaijinda both separately acknowledged the extraordinary damage done to public confidence in the system for the administration of justice in Thailand over the handling of the case of Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidhya who fled the kingdom in a private jet 2 days before charges were filed against him on April 27th 2017, nearly 5 years after he was involved in a hit and run accident that left an on-duty police officer dead in Bangkok. There have now been or are mooted over a dozen investigations and enquiries led by police, officials, panels and various government agencies into the case generated by the death, in a hit and run incident involving a Ferrari, of a 47-year-old policeman in September 2012. But there has been no trial before a court. Neither has anyone in Thailand answered the key questions except for the conclusive statement by a police spokesman on July 24th last that the now 35-year-old accused man was no longer facing charges and was free to come home to Thailand without fear of arrest. We are told now that this is all changed in the face of public outrage. But has it? The questions now are relatively straightforward. Is Mr Vorayuth charged with a crime? Where is the suspect in the case? Why has an Interpol notice not been pursued vigorously to have him arrested?
One of a number of investigative panels enquiring into the handling of the botched prosecution of Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya will meet on Tuesday and a report with full details will be sent by Thursday on the case to Thailand’s National Police Chief, General Chakthip Chaijinda, who will later hold a press conference to clarify the role of the Royal Thai Police in the matter.
The police chief has already accepted that the affair has done enormous damage to the reputation of the Royal Thai Police and has promised to take tough action against those found to have contributed to or have been responsible for it.
Prime Minister shares his concern over the handling of the case and the damage to public confidence
His comments follow those of Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha, at an economic conference last week who went out of his way to let reporters know that he was ‘not ok’ with the handling of the case and also agreed that it had raised serious questions about impartiality and public confidence in the administration of justice in Thailand.
‘I would like to express my standpoint in the Boss Red Bull case, that I am not okay with many aspects that remain unclear,’ the PM said outspokenly.
Case continues to churn up controversy, conflict and enquiries nearly eight years after the crash
However, the controversial case continues to churn up controversy and conflicts nearly eight years after the fatal early morning crash.
There are now no fewer than eight investigations and enquiries into the case including enquiries by the Office of the Attorney General, the Royal Thai Police review of the handling of the case, a panel set up by the prime minister in addition to the ongoing review of the case at the Office of Criminal Litigation in Southern Bangkok, a fact-finding enquiry within the attorney’s general’s office, a criminal investigation at Thonglor police station as well as an effective review by the House Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights.
The seventh is an investigation being conducted by Chiang Mai police into the death of a key witness in the case on the 30th July in the northern city into what local police have described as an unnatural death.
An eight enquiry may well be a suggested review last week that would task the Anti Corruption Agency in Thailand to look again at the decision by the prosecutor’s office.
The commission has already completed an enquiry into alleged wrongdoing by police involved in the case at Thonglor police station and made its report on June 26th last. But there is more.
In addition to the enquiries, there have been conflicting statements on a range of issues including the validity of the arrest warrant concerning Mr Vorayuth which, it is reported, Thonglor police station had requested to have withdrawn. We are told that this was subsequently resisted by officials at the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court.
Deputy spokesman for the Immigration Bureau confirmed on Friday that ‘Boss’ faces arrest
On Friday, a deputy spokesman for the Immigration Bureau, Police Colonel Pakkapong Sai-ubon confirmed that the arrest warrant for the Red Bull heir was still in force and that if the fugitive, who a national police spokesman declared on July 24th was free to enter the kingdom without fear of arrest, was detected in Thailand, he would be arrested and held under 14-day quarantine with strict security.
‘The chief of the bureau has instructed immigration officers to keep an eye out for Mr Vorayuth. If he shows up, he will be detained and quarantined at a state quarantine facility for 14 days under tight security around the clock,’ Police Colonel Pakkapong assured the public.
No clarification on why an Interpol red notice was cancelled or removed from its website in 2018
However, there has never been any clarification as to why a red notice for the fugitive has not been reissued by Thai authorities. Nor has it even been explained why a previous red notice against the Red Bull heir disappeared off the international police agency’s website in March 2018.
This needs to be looked at by least one of the ongoing enquiries. Interpol in 2018 would only say that they could not comment on an individual case for security reasons but said the removal was in line with its policies.
The shambolic nature of the investigation and its handlings has already brought calls for another enquiry by the National Anti Corruption Commission into the decision to drop the last remaining charge against the Red Bull heir, a decision taken by Nate Naksuk, an Assistant Attorney General.
However, another such enquiry was announced on Friday from within the office itself, the second since the decision to drop the case was made public.
New review ordered into the decision by Assistant Attorney General, Nate Naksuk, already cleared in the recent weeks by a fact-finding panel
On Friday, the Department of the Public Prosecutor Commission said it had decided to set up a committee to review the decision by Mr Nate to drop the charges against Mr Vorayuth or Boss.
This followed a meeting with Thailand’s Attorney General, Wongsakul Kittipromwong and Athapol Yaisawang, the head of the department.
Earlier, a fact-finding panel at the Office of the Attorney General had cleared Mr Nate and found that his decision was sound.
This conclusion was arrived at based on the evidence placed before him in relation to the case including the speed of the Ferrari driven by the suspect and two new witnesses.
Mr Athapol, however, has pointed out that a previous decision by former Deputy Attorney General, Pongniwat Yuthapanboriparn, to drop all petitions for review filed by Mr Vorayuth through his legal team in 2016 and to proceed with charges should not have been subsequently overruled.
Disagreement from a panel member who upheld Mr Nate’s decision based on the evidence before him
This drew fire from Poramet Intarachumnum who was a member of the fact-finding panel that supported Mr Nate’s decision.
Mr Poramet is the Director-General of the Department of Thon Buri Litigation and has argued that the decision to revive any review in the interests of justice where new evidence is available, is justified.
New probe may order a disciplinary enquiry
The new enquiry being set up will examine the decision by Mr Nate to drop the last charge against Mr Vorayuth and will decide whether it was a valid one or if not, whether the official should himself be investigated with a view to disciplinary action. Yet another potential enquiry.
The official has already been cleared by a panel who reviewed his decision in recent weeks.
Police found guilty of ‘light infractions’ in June 26th report from the National Anti Corruption Commission
On June 26th, yet another investigation by the National Anti Corruption Commission reported in its final findings that six police officers at Thonglor police station had committed ‘light infractions’ of discipline in handling the case.
We were later told by a spokesman for the Royal Thai Police that another disciplinary review had taken place against four officers still serving on the force and they had been the subject of disciplinary actions ranging from short term suspensions with one officer being held in detention for a period.
Smartphone of a key witness who died prompted a police probe, it was stolen by a friend
Meanwhile in Chiang Mai, after police retrieved the body of Jarucaht Maadthong, the 40-year-old key witness who died at the end of July in a motorbike accident, following an intervention by the Prime Minister to seize the body, comes further disturbing news.
Mr Jaruchat’s smartphone was stolen from the hospital he was taken to on July 30th following his death.
Police had earlier become suspicious after the man travelling on a second motorbike, Somchai Tawino, initially told them he did not know Mr Jaruchat but later admitted to meeting him in a pub and befriending him.
Aide of former senator charged by police with theft
Now, it is understood that a key aide to a former senator in Chiang Mai, Chuchai Lertpongadisorn, who Mr Jarucaht reportedly had worked for, had stolen the phone at the hospital.
The man known as ‘Lan’ has been charged by police with the theft of the phone. He told them that he removed the sim card from the device and left it outside Mr Jaruchat’s home.
He also admitted to police that he had attempted to throw away and destroy the phone with its data for fear of being linked with the controversy himself as he was running in a local election in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai police have indicated that they have looked into Mr Lan’s background, financial history and that of his family. They had found nothing of a suspicious nature.
However, police are confident that they will retrieve the data from the phone and are reported to be looking for any possible evidence tying Mr Jaruchat to the Red Bull case.
Witness was pivotal in the case that led to charges against ‘Boss’ Yaravut being dropped
Mr Jaruchat had been a pivotal witness in the case presented to the Assistant Attorney General Mr Nate suggesting the case against Mr Vorayuth should be dropped.
His evidence had been that the police officer, killed in the accident on the 3rd September 2012, Sergeant Wichian Klanprasert, had been driving carelessly and dangerously thus contributing to his own death. He also stated that the speed of the red Bull scion in his smokey grey Ferrari was 50 to 60 kilometres per hour from his observation as one of two eyewitnesses to the early morning crash which claimed the policeman’s life.
Ther other witness was Air Marshal Jakkrit Thanomkulabutr.
Senior police officer changed his evidence this week when he appeared before the police panel of enquiry
The case file also included the evidence and testimony of two expert witnesses, both senior police officers, that the speed of the car was under the speed limit of 80 km per hour.
One of these witnesses was Lieutenant Colonel Thanasit Taengchan of the Office of Police Forensic Science.
Ferrari had been driving at 177 km per hour, the police officer told the panel he had become confused by his own calculations of the super car’s speed
This week, appearing before the police panel investigating the case, Lieutenant Colonel Thanasit reverted to his previous testimony that the Ferrari was, in fact, travelling at 177 km per hour.
This is in line with a physics expert from Chulalongkorn University whose evidence was not included in the latest prosecution case file but has now come to light.
Sathon Wicharnwannarakm set two teams to work on the case in 2012 based on CCTV footage and measurements from the area where the crash occurred and came to the conclusion that the supercar was travelling at between 174 and 177 km per hour just seconds before hitting the policeman.
Speaking before the panel this week and when asked why in 2016 he had changed his evidence to state that the Ferrari was only travelling at under 77 km per hour, Police Lieutenant Thanasit testified that he had been confused by his own calculations.
Key questions and the only way to fix the damage done to public confidence by this case
As the enquiries and investigations continue into the case, among the key questions above all to be answered now is whether or not Boss Vorayuth is charged with manslaughter and the death of the police officer? Is he going to be arrested outside Thailand before the statute of limitations in the case expires on September 3rd 2027?
Is there going to be an Interpol red notice issued for his immediate arrest? Where is he living?
It has been reported that he may be living in the United Kingdom. He was photographed with a Porsche supercar with personal number plates in 2015, three years after the traffic death of the police officer in Bangkok but also before he fled the kingdom for good in April 2017.
It should not be difficult to track him down given his high profile appearances in recent times at international events.
Have police in foreign countries been asked to formally help locate the fugitive who is still reported to be the subject of an arrest warrant? Are extradition proceedings going to be issued?
Boss must face justice before a Thai court
Indeed, the only way to resolve this matter so that doubts can be laid to rest will be for Mr Vorayuth to appear before a Thai court to defend himself in this matter and let justice finally take its course.
There is already ample evidence that the Thai justice system, perhaps to its credit, is capable of showing understanding to offenders in such a situation from all backgrounds. This has been demonstrated in cases ranging from wealthy suspects who have made mistakes and caused death by driving under the influence of alcohol to poor people who have caused death as the result of chronic drug addiction problems.
The law must be equally careful to preserve the rights of the suspect and ensure that justice is not simply a matter of responding to the public’s demand but, nevertheless, it is imperative that it is seen to be done.