Defendant in the case, 56-year-old Suthep Phochanasomboon, lost his ฿874k bail bond when he failed to turn up at the Chonburi Provincial Court on May 12th to hear the verdict of the Supreme Court in the case which was the final say on the matter. He was found guilty of the criminal homicide of the 17-year-old teenager but the court reduced his sentence and suspended the remainder meaning he will not have to return to prison.

The Thai Supreme Court handed down its decision in a case relating to the killing of a 17-year-old teenager in a road rage confrontation in February 2017 on Thursday. It reduced the jail sentence for the defendant in the case, Mr Suthep Phochanasomboon, who it found had acted with excessive force, in self-defence, by gunning down a young man who was part of a gang which emerged from a passenger van in the centre of Chonburi after it pulled across Mr Suthep’s car with his family inside. Mr Suthep was not in court on Thursday and is the subject of a bench arrest warrant after he failed to show up for the final verdict in the case last month.

engineer-who-killed-17-year-old-not jailed
56-year-old engineer Suthep Phochanasomboon who killed 17th-year-old Navadol Puengpai after a road rage incident escalated in the centre of Chonburi in February 2017, was handed down a suspended sentence by the Supreme Court on Thursday when the final verdict on the case was read out at the Chonburi Provincial Court. The killing and the circumstances surrounding it sparked a public debate in Thailand with a wave of public support for the middle-aged man who gunned down the teenager after his family was threatened.

The Supreme Court, on Thursday, imposed a suspended sentence on a 56-year-old engineer who killed 17-year-old Thai teenager, Navadol Puengpai, in the Mueang district of Chonburi on the 4th February 2017 in what started out as a road rage incident.

Suthep Phochanasomboon was not in court to hear the verdict on Thursday, June 17th, nor was his lawyer as the defendant was already the subject of a court arrest warrant issued after he failed to turn up on Wednesday, May 12th last to hear the final decision of the court. 

Court waited one hour on May 12th for the defendant to show up with his lawyer before seizing his bail funds and ordering his arrest on a bench warrant

Mr Suthep had been released from jail on bail of ฿874,000 in May.

After waiting one hour from 9.30 am to 10.30 am without news of the defendant and his lawyer last month, the court ordered his arrest by bench warrant and the seizure of his bail money. If arrested, he was to be brought before the court.

It had also set Thursday as the deadline for reading the verdict whether the defendant was brought before it or not.

The professional had been sentenced in September 2018 by Chonburi Provincial Court to 15 years imprisonment for the intentional murder of Mr Navodol on the Ang Sila Road near the Khrok Yai intersection in the centre of Chonburi.

Sentence reduced from 15 years to 10 years by the Provincial Court in Chonburi in the initial case verdict

The court cut this sentence down to 10 years and also imposed a fine of ฿340,000 in addition to a ฿4,000 fine for possessing a gun in a public place.

On October 11th 2019, the Appeals Court upheld the lower court’s ruling in the matter.

Video footage of the scene of the killing later emerged showing a van parked in front of Mr Suthep’s sedan car at the intersection and several individuals approaching his car.

Victim in the case had aggressively threatened the defendant on the evening of the city centre stand-off

Mr Navadol is reported to have aggressively approached the driver’s door of the car several times and screamed threats into Mr Suthep who was sitting in the car with his wife and family.

Mr Suthep also got out of the car and briefly engaged his young harassers.

After he is seen emerging from his car and is surrounded by the young men, the video footage shows the 17-year-old later walking quickly from the car across the intersection to another side of the road where he dropped dead.

Efforts to resuscitate him by emergency services at the scene later failed.

Road rage incident escalated from a minor altercation earlier outside a seafood shop over careless parking

The road rage incident began earlier at a seafood shop where Mr Suthep was parked outside with his family.

The van containing a group of friends including the deceased man, pulled in blocking Mr Suthep’s exit onto the roadway prompting him to use his car horn and flash his lights.

The situation had angered the defendant in the case and his wife.

They both made some unkind remarks to the young men getting into the van hemming them in and which later took off.

Defendant pursued the van in his car

Mr Suthep, in another video which emerged in the case, from his own car, is then seen speeding in pursuit of the van which eventually pulls across his car at the intersection in the centre of Chonburi leading to the fatal confrontation.

At one stage, during the tense and anger-driven standoff that ensued, Mr Suthep was heard to express fear and implored the young men to retreat.

 ‘I’m with my mom and my kid, I beg you,’ Mr Suthep was heard saying.

‘You think you are cool, you fucking bastard?’ retorted one of the young men. ‘Get out of the car.’

Other evidence emerged which shows Mr Suthep may have intended a shooting. Told his wife: ‘I’ll just shoot them’ before the fatal incident

However, other evidence also emerged showing that Mr Suthep may have intended to shoot at the young men.

At the first altercation between the parties, Mr Suthep’s wife can be heard saying ‘give me the gun’. He responds by saying: ‘I’ve prepared. I’ll just shoot them.’

He then gave chase to the van which, in turn, pulled in front of Mr Suthep at the intersection where the fatal shooting took place.

Mr Suthep’s wife pleaded with the young men in the van to move their vehicle and let her family be on their way but they asked her to wait. 

Engineer told the court that he only fired his gun to frighten the men surrounding his car off

The defendant himself said that he only fired his gun to frighten the young men off. Unfortunately, he mortally wounded one of the gang who assailed him and his family in the car with threats and aggressive posturing

In the media coverage of the killing, Mr Suthep received overwhelming public support including lawyers and TV news show hosts who applauded his actions.

Macho country with both gun culture and sensitivity to insults or slights resulting in thousands of deaths each year often over slight grievances

Thailand is a country with a particularly macho culture with intense sensitivity to public loss of face.

The country has a special problem with both road rage incidents and random acts of lethal violence sparked by a perceived slight or insult.

Such incidents are common and reported weekly by the media with thousands of cases every year.

Nonetheless, the country’s homicide rate has been falling steadily since 1992 when it was 10.3 per 100,000 population to 2.6 in 2017, the year of this tragedy.

Middle-aged man who gunned down 17-year-old on the street receives overwhelming public support

However, the homicide rate can spike such as in 2003 when it jumped back up to 10 per 100,000. The global average is 6.1.

It is the offhand nature of many of the killings and homicides in Thailand that are striking. The source of the violence or aggression is often linked with a perceived slight or lack of respect.

Disturbing road rage incident sees motorist calmly threatened with a gun for honking his car horn
Man arrested for the killing of 27-year-old birthday boy while assisting a damsel in distress on the roadway 

A TV anchorman asked: why purchase a gun if you fail to use it in such a situation? A well known Thai lawyer offered the engineer his services. ‘You did your best. I am on your side,’ Kerdphol Kaewkerd wrote on social media addressing himself to the then suspect in the case, Mr Suthep. ‘If you don’t have a lawyer, I am happy to be your lawyer.’

Mr Suthep quickly surrendered to police in the case and was prosecuted to the fullest extent possible under the law.

Suthep was still found guilty and sentenced by the higher court which reduced and suspended his jail term given the circumstances of the killing

The judgment of the court was that the death was a tragedy although it found Mr Suthep guilty of killing the teenager by using excessive force in self-defence against those who had confronted him and put him in fear. 

However, it made allowances for the circumstances under which the young man, Mr Navdol, had been gunned down.

The top court paid attention to the activity of the young men who emerged from the white van and surrounded the defendant’s car on the night in question and the threats voiced by the deceased man to the defendant.

‘You will fight for nothing,’ Mr Navadol shouted repeatedly.

It found the victim and his associates were partly to blame for what happened.

It also noted that Mr Suthep, a defendant with a previously clean record, would find imprisonment for the first time a difficult and painful experience.

Reporters trying to track down Mr Suthep who will emerge shortly according to a lawyer, this week

On this basis, it reduced Mr Suthep’s sentence to 5 years imprisonment and again by a third to three years and four months which was then suspended.

He was also fined ฿2,000 for carrying a gun in public.

Reporters have been trying to track down Mr Suthep. 

A lawyer linked with the case has indicated that he will emerge shortly although the case involving his criminal prosecution by authorities for murder is now at an end.

On May 12th last, a lawyer for the victim, Mr Wanchai Sangsuwan, was present when Mr Suthep and his legal representatives failed to show up. 

The defendant may still face civil action for the killing for which he has already been convicted by the court.

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