Ferrari Joe is being held at Phitsanulok Prison where according to the prison governor Narong Juisei, on Saturday, he spent a stressful first night in a cell shared with one of his former subordinates on the third floor of the institution. In the meantime, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice and Law, MP Sira Jenjaka, met the father of the victim, Navin Thanapat, who told the lawmaker and anti-corruption campaigner that Ferrari Joe or Police Colonel Thitisan had come to him before the video emerged and cried like a baby over the death of his son. He told the government MP that after he saw the video, he knew it was a lie.
The shocking case of Police Colonel Thitisan Utthanaphon and his abusive actions at Nakhon Sawan Police Station in early August looks like it will continue to be controversial following his commanding PR performance in the course of an interview between the media and the National Police Commissioner General Suwat Jangyodsuk on Thursday night which, on Friday, saw a respected monk, Phra Suthiwachiraporn of Wat Phatthasittharam, visit police headquarters in the provincial capital offering support for ‘Director Joe’ as a ‘peacekeeper for the people to fight against narcotics’. This comes with confirmation from the former cop’s lawyer over the weekend that his client is fighting all charges in court as is his right according to the law. This case looks set to further shake public confidence in the rule of law in Thailand, already damaged by several high profile controversies, while police reform remains stalled in parliament and which, according to a government MP this weekend, lacks the teeth required to improve the administration of justice in the kingdom.
There is growing public concern in Thailand at what is perceived to be special treatment being afforded to the senior policeman seen on a video last Tuesday torturing a drug suspect which led to the man’s death.
The disturbing case of 39-year-old former Police Colonel Thitisan Utthanaphon became even more gripping when it emerged that the young officer had assets that amounted to hundreds of millions of baht, even leading to a press statement from the Director of Thailand’s Customs Department, during the week, explaining his links with the seizure of luxury cars and their later public sale.
Masterful PR performance at police commissioner’s press conference leads to lawyer’s body statements expressing fears for the course of justice
On Saturday, the Lawyers Association of Thailand (LAT) came out following days of public disquiet and online commentary over the subsequent arrest and press conference on Thursday night at the police Crime Suppression Division (CSD) headquarters in Bangkok where the criminal suspect was allowed to put forward, amid apologies and expressions of remorse, justifications for his involvement in the killing and suspected murder of a criminal suspect based on the war against drugs while categorically denying that he had attempted to extort ฿2 million from the man.
In a strongly-worded statement, the lawyer’s body said: ‘This is tantamount to giving the suspect more rights than the law allows. This is against the law.’
The body also warned that the pointed remarks made by the former police colonel, who was the station chief in Nakhon Sawan, could lead to investigators working on the case being swayed as well as public opinion which could impact witnesses and undermine the course of justice.
‘The remarks could influence public feeling or investigators, while damaged parties and witnesses may also be pressured, which could affect the justice process.’
Arrest of Colonel Thitisan Utthanaphon by appointment must also be probed says lawyer’s body
They have also raised questions over the arrest of Colonel Thitisan in Chonburi on Thursday afternoon last when, after taking flight on Tuesday night to avoid arrest, he was delivered in a white car to a meeting with Police Major General Ekkarak Limsangkat, the Deputy Chief of Provincial Police Region 6 outside Saen Suk Police Station in Bang Saen, Chonburi at 4 pm.
‘The driver is a key witness in the case and investigators must find out the details,’ the lawyer’s association demanded.
Reports suggested that Police Major General Ekkarak could not remember the licence plate of the white car in question.
No clarity yet on the charges against the policemen but all criminal counts will be fought by former cop
There is also increased speculation about the nature of the charges now being pursued against the former police officer and 6 other policemen arrested with him last week.
Initial reports suggested that the Provincial Court in Nakhon Sawan had handed down warrants to detain the suspects on murder, abuse of power and extortion charges.
Colonel Titisan’s lawyer, Chokechai Angkaew, has refused to reveal the details of the charges but has made it quite clear that his client will be fighting all criminal complaints made against him in court.
‘It is the right of the suspect,’ said the lawyer over the weekend as his notorious, high profile and wealthy client spent his first days in prison in Phitsanulok province and appeared none too comfortable with his new surroundings.
Prison governor confirms that former police chief in Nakhon Sawan spent a stressful first night in jail
On Saturday morning, the Governor of Phitsanulok Provincial Prison, Narong Juisei, briefed reporters outside the facility on the health and condition of one of his newest inmates, former Police Colonel Thitisan Utthanaphon.
The former top cop at the centre of the gruesome alleged murder and torture of a drug suspect was transferred there on Friday night after earlier being delivered into the custody of Nakhon Sawan Provincial Prison which is currently a COVID-19 hotspot.
A decision was taken by the Corrections Department on Friday evening to transfer the seven accused former police officers who over the course of the last two days, appeared before Nakhon Sawan Provincial Court on charges connected with the torture incident and death of an alleged drug dealer, 24-year-old Jeerapong Thanapat which dominated the news in Thailand this week and made international headlines worldwide after the shocking video clip was released by celebrity lawyer Sittha Biabangkerd.
All inmates tested for COVID-19 before admission
Governor Narong told reporters that all of the prisoners had been tested for COVID-19 on Friday before being admitted to the prison located in a rural village and that 5 of the new inmates were placed in one cell on the 2nd floor of the facility while two, including the senior officer Colonel Thitisan, were accommodated upstairs on the third floor.
It must have seemed a long way for Ferrari Joe from the high life he enjoyed just days before at his opulent ฿60 million mansion in the affluent Ramintra area of Bangkok with its own swimming pool, servants and ฿100 million worth of luxury cars.
Not to mention his change of status from city police chief to remand prisoner.
All prisoners at Phitsanulok Prison are treated equally says the governor including a health checkup and mental health evaluation shortly after admission
The prison chief emphasised that all prisoners at the facility were treated equally and that all would receive a health checkup by qualified personnel in the course of their first day and that this would include a mental health evaluation by trained psychologists.
The governor told the media crews that the former Director of Nakhon Sawan Police Station appeared to be under stress in the course of his first night in prison but that this was normal for people who have not been to prison before.
Case has turned the spotlight on the stalled and unwieldy police reform process in parliament
The news comes as the political fallout caused by the shocking case continues with MPs in parliament and the opposition calling for more progress to be made in the passage of the National Police Act which is a landmark piece of legislation that has been moving slowly through parliament with reports on Saturday that a special 46 member committee comprised of ministers, senators and MPs had, so far, only managed to review 14 of 174 articles in the legislation which is an integral part of promised political reforms that the government is committed to.
Indeed, a key reason given by those behind the military coups in 2006 and 2014 in Thailand was to implement police reform which, in broad terms, involves making the Royal Thai Police accountable to independent power structures.
Thailand already has many agencies and institutions normally associated with the protection of human rights such as the National Human Rights Commission which, this week, condemned the incident as a clear human rights violation and demanded a rigorous investigation of the matter and prosecution of all those involved.
The bill, currently making its way through parliament, has been held up not least by the COVID-19 pandemic but also by the large and unwieldy nature of the committee of the assembly with no coherent consensus on what the bill should end up like amid many competing agendas.
Prime Minister is Chairman of the reform committee
The PM is the Chairman of the National Police Policy Board while Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan is the Deputy Chairman.
The shocking case of Police Colonel Thitisan Utthanaphon, including public revulsion at what they saw in the authenticated video showing a senior police officer torturing a suspect to death by suffocating him with 6 plastic bags in addition to the extraordinary financial status of the young officer, has sapped public confidence in the force.
Claims of collusion between senior police in Nakhon Sawan and Golden Triangle drug dealers were raised in parliament in February this year, probe ordered
There were serious claims of police collusion with Golden Triangle drug dealers raised in parliament this February concerning Nakhon Sawan province.
Two senior officers were ordered by the police chief to probe the allegations and report back to him.
Golden Triangle drugs threat aired in parliament, claims of senior police officers being involved in trafficking
This week, Senator Kamnoon Sitthisamarn, one of 14 senators on the police reform committee, made it clear that he did not think lawmakers will manage to finalise the legislation in this session of parliament and ahead of what many observers see as the strong prospect of an early general election next year.
Lawmakers have doubts about the political reform process including its breadth, powers to monitor investigations and how they are conducted
The senator said that many of the critical articles of the proposed bill, that will likely determine its effectiveness, have yet to be reviewed by the committee.
A former Democrat Party MP, Witthaya Kaewparadai, has strongly criticised Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha in his capacity as Chairman of the Policing Commission and the Police Reform Committee for failing to push for further progress on the legislation.
The draft bill being examined was prepared by legal expert Meechai Ruchupan who led the committee which drafted the 2017 Constitution.
Government chief whip, Wirach Ratanasate, agrees that the bill will not pass in this session of parliament but suggested, this week, that it could be finalised within a year with the cooperation of all parties.
In the meantime, vocal Bangkok based Palang Pracharat Party MP, Sira Jenjaka, has gone on record to say the bill is not comprehensive enough and will not address situations like this week’s case as it does not deal with the oversight of interrogations and the treatment of criminal suspects in custody.
This case is bound to raise the spectre of the Red Bull case which is already notorious in the kingdom.
Mr Sira is the Chairman of the House of Representatives committee on law and justice and has been strongly critical, in the past, of the conduct of the Royal Thai Police in the case of billionaire Red Bull heir and fugitive suspect, Vorayuth Yoovidhya.
This case is widely acknowledged to have damaged the confidence of the public in Thailand with regard to the rule of law
Last year, a cabinet appointed panel of enquiry led by respected anti-corruption campaigner, Mr Vicha Mahakun, unearthed unequivocal evidence of police corruption and malpractice in that case.
Red Bull scandal exposed as cabinet to discuss shocking details unearthed by inquiry panel before publication
Apart from some minor disciplinary sanctions within the police ranks, there has not yet been any further action while the wealthy fugitive remains free outside the kingdom’s borders with the clock ticking down to when he must be brought before a court before the statute of limitations kicks in as it has already on several charges.
Police reform proposals now before parliament are inward-looking and focus on the administration the police including promotion decisions and appeals
Police reform proposals in the bill, up to now, appear to be inward-looking dealing more with the structural oversight of the force including arrangements for promotion through the ranks with a provision allowing serving officers, particularly with seniority, to appeal in situations where they feel they have been overlooked.
Big Joke promoted to a new role at police HQ working on reform of the force from April after reshuffle
On Saturday, Mr Sira was in Nakhon Sawan with Senator Chaturong Sermsuk and Nakhon Sawan MP, Kitirat Pattaraprechasakul, to investigate the case for himself.
Mr Sira is known for his crusades against corruption and his determination to hold police services accountable to the public.
MP meets the father of the man who died after being tortured by the former Nakhon Sawan police chief
In Nakhon Sawan, he met the father of the man who died on August 5th or 6th at the hands of Police Colonel Thitisan, Jeerapong Thanapat.
Navin Thanapat told the MP and his other distinguished visitors that the local police chief, and now the main suspect in his son’s death, had visited him at his home after the incident in early August.
He denied rampant rumours that Ferrari Joe or Police Colonel Thitisan had paid him ฿5 million for earlier giving his support and credence of what now appears to be false testimony from the corrupt police officer.
He said the 39-year-old senior police officer had engaged his sympathy by crying over the death of his son and that he had believed him.
On viewing of the video, father knew Ferrari Joe lied
However, on being shown the video footage last week, he quickly realised that he had been duped and lied to.
He is now seeking justice for his son.
Mr Sira explained to reporters that the father of the victim fully believed what the police officer had told him.
The MP later suggested that a thorough examination of all the medical procedures and documentation connected with the death of 24-year-old drug-dealing suspect Jeerapong Thanapat will have to be undertaken and will be central to the ongoing case.
Eruption of social media on Friday following Ferrari Joe’s bizarre press conference contribution by phone
It comes as social media on Friday erupted following what was seen a surprisingly strong performance by Police Colonel Thitisan in a press conference between the media and the National Police Commissioner General Suwat Jangyodsuk from another room in the Crime Suppression Division’s headquarters in Bangkok on Thursday night last when the arrested cop was allowed to tell his side of the story after being invited by General Suwat from another room by telephone.
‘Ferrari Joe’ arrested by police, accuses the media of slandering him, says it made him feel suicidal on the run
The former Nakhon Sawan police chief swore on an amulet of a revered monk which he was wearing, that he had not intended to murder the man in his custody nor did he attempt to extort money from the alleged drug dealer.
Hashtag on Twitter ‘Stop lying Joe’ as former Bangkok massage parlour boss expresses his doubts
This led to a social media hashtag on Twitter ‘Stop lying Joe’ which went viral in which the public expressed general disgust and heightened scepticism that the former senior police officer will somehow manage to evade culpability for the crime.
Colourful former MP, massage parlour boss, candidate for Governor of Bangkok and now a stinging critic of the current government, Chuvit Kamolvisit, warned that the investigation into the death of Mr Jeerapong should not be dealt with by Nakhon Sawan Provincial Police as he questioned the veracity of Ferrari Joe’s claims.
‘Joe says he wanted to extract information for the sake of the people. Yet he made no mention of why the suspect’s wife, who was arrested at the same time, was released? Something is fishy. The drug buster says he wanted to do good deeds but used the wrong approach. If the case is left in the hands of Nakhon Sawan police, a harsh outcome is unlikely.’
Police commissioner took the investigation out of the hands of local police and assigned it to the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok
However, the police commissioner, on Thursday, made it clear that the case will be handled by the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) who have a long track record of prosecuting crooked or out of line public officials.
Indeed at Nakhon Sawan Provincial Court, on Friday, many observers noted that ‘Ferrari Joe’ or Colonel Thitisan did not appear as exuberant and confident as he did in Bangkok on Thursday night and it was reported that he had faced intense interrogation of statements to the police before the court appearance.
At court, the accused man, no longer a public servant, made it known that he had instructed his relatives not to apply for bail as the wife of Police Lieutenant Colonel Thonin Maswanna, a former key aide of Ferrari Joe’s and who had also just surrendered, did not offer any surety as police were granted an extension of the detention period for a further 12 days to build their case against the men.
Local monk comes out in support of the former ‘Director Joe’ and travelled to Provincial Police headquarters bringing him food and encouragement
One person who was decidedly impressed by the surrender and performance of Police Colonel Thitisan on Thursday was a local and respected monk from Wat Phatthasittharam in Nakhon Sawan, Phra Suthiwachiraporn.
The monk warned the public not to be so judgemental pointing out that ‘no one is born who is all good and not all evil’ as he travelled to the Provincial Police headquarters to show his support for the former police chief.
‘I don’t agree with the torture of the accused. But I want to say that we should all not think too much about what happened. We are not all born good.’
The monk made it clear that he abhorred torture but was impressed by the young officer’s willingness to listen to his superiors and turn himself in to face justice last Thursday.
‘I don’t agree with the torture of the accused. But I want to say don’t think too much. We are not all born good. From listening to the director’s interview yesterday, the director said he wanted to kill himself. But when the elders told him to come back and turn himself in, the director returned to surrender himself to trial.’
The monk told his followers that the fact that the police officer was wealthy was a private matter for the individual concerned. ‘As for how rich you are, it’s up to you,’ he said.
Monk praised the former police chief
The monk pointed to the fact that the former police chief had taken responsibility for his actions and made it clear to authorities that he ordered the action against the victim in the crime.
The monks said he was convinced that the policeman did not intend to cause the victim, despite his criminal act, to die.
He described the former top cop as a ‘descendant of Thailand’ who was working for the people of Nakhon Sawan.
On Thursday night, responding to media questioning, Colonel Thitisan did, however, admit to being responsible for the removal of CCTV footage from the station at Nakhon Sawan after the death of the drugs suspect.
Phra Suthiwachiraporn pointed out that while the policeman did not intend to kill the drug-dealing suspect, he could understand his motive as a ‘peacekeeper for the people to fight against narcotics’.
Ferrari Joe says he is not angry with the police officer who released the clip sparking his downfall
Later on Friday, while in court, the former police officer also let it be known that he was not angry with the policeman who had released the video clip that led to his downfall.
The clip caused more controversy over the weekend when the two well-known lawyers involved in revealing and exposing this case to the public last week, appeared to fall out with one suing the other for defamation.
Defamation proceedings mooted this weekend between the two lawyers who exposed the atrocity
The video clip was ultimately made public on Tuesday by well-known lawyer Sittha Biabangkerd who, when he released the footage, is alleged to have intimated to audiences that fellow lawyer, Decha Kittiwittayanan, had attempted to extort ฿20 million from the wealthy Head of Place in Nakhon Sawan.
Mr Sita said he had received the footage from a junior officer at Nakhon Sawan Police Station who captured it originally and feared for his life as a result while Mr Decha Kittiwittayanan who issued defamation proceedings over the weekend, said he held back the footage as a matter of personal responsibility since it was linked to an ongoing police probe.
He said he had received it from a senior police officer.
Mr Decha’s report on the atrocity was the first news on the matter to be released to the public lighting the fuse that led to the arrest of the police officers involved including Ferrari Joe and growing calls for increased scrutiny of police operations as well as institutional reform.