Mysterious death case in Mukdahan province that deeply disturbed the Thai public in May this year still being pursued by investigators as new National Police Commissioner highlights the case to rejig the public’s memory and obtain the last key piece of evidence to crack the case and lead to an arrest.
Thai police staged a press conference last week featuring the ‘Nong Chompoo’ case, involving the mysterious death of a little girl whose naked body was found on an elevated forested area in Mukdahan last year. The event was understood to be an effort by police to bring forth new witnesses or evidence that might help crack the case and lead to the arrest of the perpetrators.
Thailand’s new police chief took an active part in a press conference this week where the high profile case of ‘Nong Chompoo,’ a three-year-old girl from Mukdahan who was found dead on May 14th last, was aired.
The death of the little girl who went missing from her village in the Dong Luang district of Mukdahan on Monday, May 11th last, became a national fixation for Thais in the weeks and months after the little girl’s death as the public became engrossed in the case.
Coverage by two Thai digital TV channels criticised in some quarters by the public and investigators
This was caused by extensive coverage of the crime by two popular Thai digital TV channels Thai Rath and Amarin. Both channels have faced criticism, in some quarters, for treating the death of the young girl inappropriately to boost viewer ratings.
Others among the public saw the coverage as a quest for justice for the innocent young girl.
It is understood that the new police chief and officers concerned with the case, this week, in calling the press conference, were attempting to bring into the public domain key aspects of the case to solicit the cooperation of members of the public who may have further critical information to bring to bear on their enquiries.
As well as hearing from the newly installed National Police Chief, Police General Suwat Jangyodsuk, the public also heard from Police Colonel Phadej Ngamla-mom, the Superintendent of Metropolitan Police Division One as the senior police officers took the public through the evidence and the thoughts of investigating officers in the case.
384 witnesses interviewed by police
The massive investigation currently entails a 918-page report, no less than 384 witness statements, 154 DNA tests and 113 different pieces of evidence some of which, according to police, could yet be critical.
The three-year-old girl was found on May 14th last in a forested area on raised terrain.
Her naked body was found over 1 metre from her clothing. Police are also reported to have picked up significant evidence from the site where the body of the little girl was found including hair samples.
The body was found in Phu Pha Noi forest within the Phu Pha Yon National Park at a height and a full 2 km from the little village where Nong Chompoo lived and was last seen alive, three days earlier.
At this week’s press conference, the police outlined one key finding or conclusion in their investigation so far.
That is that they believe that someone, possibly an adult who knew the young girl, had carried Nong Chompoo or Orawan Wongsricha, to the place where she was found dead on May 14th when a preliminary examination of the body suggested that little Orawan had died at least 8 hours before she was found by those searching for her.
It is understood that the little girl was not killed on the mountainside by her abductor.
Little Orawan wandered off and then could not be found by her sister on Monday, May 11th last
The parents of Nong Chompoo left her on Monday, May 11th, with an elder sibling as they set off on an errand. The little girl’s older sister told police that 3-year-old Orawan had simply wandered off and later could not be found.
The little girl had only consumed a slight breakfast that morning of some omelette and a bottle of orange juice.
Uncle-in-law became a key figure in the story in the aftermath of the discovery of the little girl’s body
Attending this week’s press conference was the Uncle in law of Nong Chompoo, Chaiphol Wipha, also known as Uncle Phol.
He emerged from the intense media coverage in the aftermath of the girl’s death as a minor celebrity but also found himself cast in the role as a suspect in the affair which he strongly refuted.
The bizarre media coverage of the affair led to groups of people supporting Mr Chaiphol against the suspicions levelled against him. They saw him as a man potentially wronged and were determined to come to his aid.
This even led to one couple building the man a house while others lent him financial support and arranged for commercial opportunities where ‘Lung Phol’ or Uncle Phol publicly endorsed products.
Virtual reality show on TV
TV audiences were treated to what critics have labelled a virtual reality show which they have criticised for being an intrusion into the privacy of family even though family members participated.
There were fears that the coverage was also complicating efforts by police to investigate the case objectively and thoroughly.
Among the media circus acts were shamans and spirit talkers who updated TV audiences on just what might have happened to the little girl using spiritual sources.
Mother of ‘Nong Chompoo’ always convinced that the culprit was one of the tightly knit local community
At the outset of the police investigation into the death of the young girl, her mother, 40-year-old Sawittree Wongsricha, had claimed the perpetrator was someone who was known to her daughter and from within the tightly knit village community in Dong Luang district near Phu Pha Yon national park in Mukdahan province.
This theory was also supported by police after they discovered that the young girl would not let herself be carried by strangers and was likely taken to the place where her body was found by an adult with experience of the local terrain.
However, police say they still cannot rule out the possibility that strangers may have forcefully abducted the young girl.
Uncle in law attended press briefing this week to quell any speculation as to his involvement in the case
The woman later began to question Uncle Phol’s account of his activities during the time her daughter went missing, a move which drew a polarised response from TV viewers and led to public support for Mr Chaiphol or the parents of the little girl.
This week, Mr Chaiphol attended the press conference accompanied by his team of lawyers named as Kritsada Lohitdee, Ratchaphol Sirisakho, and Jeeraphan Phetkhao.
Mr Chaiphol made it clear that the purpose of this appearance was to quell any rumours or speculation that linked him to the investigation into the disappearance of the young girl, last May.
Police sources indicated that there is a prime suspect and that a motive over a land dispute may be involved
This week, police sources revealed that they do have a prime suspect in the case and are suggesting that a motive may have been a land dispute between the family and local people living in the area.
However, despite the exhaustive investigation and the overwhelming body of evidence, there is still not a compelling case for officers to seek a provincial court arrest warrant.
This means that without a breakthrough, after one year, the case will be handed to the public prosecutor’s office.
Officers strongly believe that the inability of the young girl to reach the spot where her body was found unaided, which would have involved travelling over terrain including 60-degree slopes is the key to solving the mystery.
At the end of last week’s briefing, they promised that they will not let up until the person responsible for abducting Orawan Wongsricha or Nong Chompoo and causing her death is brought before a Thai court.
The status of limitations on the case is 20 years.