Youth Crime Crisis: Police Chief urges that the Age of Criminal Responsibility be reduced to 12. Thailand’s top cop advocates the move following the shocking Siam Paragon case. Amidst a legal conundrum and debate over mental health, General Torsak’s proposal will  certainly spark a nationwide discussion.

Within hours after the release from custody of the 14-year-old mass killer involved in the Siam Paragon Shopping Centre massacre on October 3rd 2023 to institutional care under the 2008 Mental Health Act until he is mentally recovered to stand trial, Thailand’s National Police Chief has made a serious call for the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility in the Kingdom. It comes just a day after a senior official at the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) appeared to blame police investigators for the boy’s release from the court’s jurisdiction. 

General Torsak Sukwimol, the Thai National Police Commissioner, addressed reporters on Tuesday at Royal Thai Police headquarters. At length, although he made his call on the basis of a broader issue relating to serious criminal acts committed by those under 15, he made it clear this also encompassed challenges raised by the Siam Paragon Shopping Centre case and the massacre perpetrated on October 3rd by a 14 year old mentally ill boy.

Previously, on Thursday, December 28th, the Public Prosecutors Office in Bangkok sent back the police investigation file declaring it illegal.

Afterwards, police were told they may not reopen the case until the 14-year-old boy is ready to fight the charges against him.

The latest news from Royal Thai headquarters comes within hours of the 14-year-old accused in the Siam Paragon Shopping Centre mass murder in October, being released from custody due to mental health issues.

In the meantime, Thai officials assured the public that the killer was not at large or free to go home. In short, his parents have agreed to let him continue treatments at the Galya Rajanagarindra Institute.

Moves related to the 14-year-old fully in line with the law and progressive provisions of the 2008 Mental Health Act relating to mentally ill offenders

Basically, this was the psychiatric institution he was transferred to within hours of appearing at the Juvenile Court in early October. This was days after the outrage which made international news.

The court, at that time, ordered him to be detained at the Juvenile Observation and Protection Centre.

Officials stressed that the suspension of prosecution and release of the accused from custody was in line with the law. At this time, they emphasise the need for treatment of the 14-year-old accused of mass murder. 

This will be until he is capable of standing trial. The statute of limitations in the case is 20 years, right up to October 2043.

The accused explicitly comes within the scope and progressive provisions of Thailand’s Mental Act 2008.

Incidentally, several law-breaking foreigners as well as locals in Thailand have also benefited from the provisions of this act. Simultaneously, it has also been used to shield mentally incapacitated perpetrators of violence against foreigners in the Kingdom.

This includes the brutal murder of UK man Marcus Evans by 22-year-old Prasot Thipthep in Kanchanaburi province in January 2022.

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Previously, when he appeared in court, a judge had specifically rejected a motion to have the 14-year-old treated at the psychiatric institution. However, this was overturned later by officials with the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection.

Investigation file sent to prosecutors returned to Pathumwan police investigators on December 28th in a bombshell development. It was declared illegal

Earlier, there was a bombshell announcement that prosecutors sent back a file to investigators at Pathumwan Police Station in Bangkok. This occurred last week. Police were told their investigation was illegal and were requested to halt it.

Police prosecution of underage Siam Paragon mass shooter deemed ‘illegal’ by prosecutors for now

On Tuesday, Royal Thai Police Chief General Torsak Sukwimol called for a discussion on the possibility of lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 15 years to 12 years.

The impetus for this is understood to be a wider concern about the involvement of younger Thais, specifically those aged 12 to 15, in increasingly severe criminal activities. 

Certainly, the move was prompted also by recent events linked to the extraordinary case of the 14-year-old boy who carried out a shooting at Siam Paragon on October 3, 2023, leading to fatalities and injuries.

Police chief spoke to the media at Royal Thai headquarters in Bangkok. Confirmed that he was in contact with the victim’s families in this horrific case

On January 2, 2024, Police General Torsak addressed the media at Royal Thai Police Headquarters.

He shed light on the case and highlighted the need for a potential amendment to the existing laws.

The Commander emphasised that due to the age of the perpetrator, police had tread carefully. He said the investigative process has been intricate.

At the same time, he noted the child is currently undergoing treatment at the Galya Rajanagarindra Institute.

Police General Torsak clarified: ‘If the medical team is of the opinion that the child is ready, investigators will be sent together with interprofessionals, lawyers, and parents to jointly interrogate.’

The incident in question involved a 14-year-old boy who carried out the atrocity at the Siam Paragon Shopping Centre, in central Bangkok, leading to three people being murdered and many injured.

Reports suggest that the accused was a Mathayom 2 student with no prior school-related issues. The boy just walked out of nowhere into the centre on the afternoon of October 3rd and began to kill.

The shooting raised questions about the adequacy of existing legal frameworks for juvenile offenders.

Police chief spoke with the mentally ill 14-year-old on October 3rd last after he calmly surrendered to elite and heavily armed officers hunting him down

Indeed, the police chief himself met the accused on October 3rd and interviewed him. 

This happened after the 14-year-old private school student surrendered on the evening of the shocking mass shooting carried out by him at the famous Siam Paragon Centre on October 3rd last. 

As a matter of fact, the 14-year-old boy that evening called the police on the phone to surrender.

He waited peacefully for the armed officers with his hands conspicuously in the air. Afterwards, he calmly let them take him into custody.

Formerly, the heavily armed elite police units were tasked with hunting down and neutralising the killer if required.

Minutes earlier, he brutally, callously and pitilessly murdered a 34-year-old Chinese mother of twins cowering in the Women’s toilet area after he entered

In contrast, minutes earlier he was striking terror into the hearts of shoppers. The killer calmly walked into a women’s bathroom on the 2nd floor. He entered the facility as he hunted down terrified shoppers. 

There, he cruelly murdered 34-year-old Ms Zhao Jinnan, a Chinese mother of twin daughters.

She was cowering on the floor and begged for mercy, according to an eyewitness who saw what happened.

Since then, he has not been named nor identified in any way by authorities.

Moreover, he committed the brutal murder with a Glock 9mm handgun.

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He purchased the lethal firearm at a knocked-down price by having a gunsmith alter a replica gun. He obtained the funds for it by deception. Earlier, he had requested a loan facility to purchase a computer.

Police chief on Tuesday made it clear that his officers had been both diligent in prosecuting the law and sensitive towards the mentally ill suspect

Concerns about the leniency of existing laws regarding child offenders have been raised by the public.

Police General Torsak assured that investigators have diligently followed procedures and engaged with relevant agencies. He highlighted that discretion is exercised in prosecuting children.

He stated: ‘The matter confirms that the investigating officer used his discretion in considering allegations based on the facts that have already been reported.’

In response to fears from the victims’ families about receiving justice, Police General Torsak reassured them that investigators are in touch with both the deceased’s and the perpetrator’s families. 

He stated: ‘They also talked with the relatives of the perpetrator and agreed that they wanted the Galya Rajanagarindra Institute to continue to be the caretaker.’

Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) official on Monday laid some blame on police involved in the case after the accused was released from legal custody

Further complicating the situation, the Attorney General’s Office revealed on January 1, 2024, that due to a delay in submitting the case report, the 14-year-old suspect was legally released. 

Mr Prayut Phetkun, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, explained: ‘After the police did not send the case report to the prosecutor on time, this caused them to lose control of any order to receive treatment and interrogation at the Galya Rajanagarindra Institute.’

The release sparked discussions about the mental health of the accused.

Reports indicate that doctors concluded the child still had a mental illness and required continuous treatment until cured. 

Dr Siriprakai Worapreecha, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection, revealed that discussions had taken place between representatives of the Observation Department, the child’s parents, and doctors, resulting in an agreement for his continued treatment at the Galya Rajanagarindra Institute.

Police chief wants to see a more robust legal framework for prosecuting offences committed by increasingly dangerous young people due to societal trends

On Tuesday, however, National Police Chief General Torsak Sukvimol added a new dimension to the discussion. He proposed a reduction in the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years. 

He cited the increasing severity of crimes committed by young individuals.

Additionally, he suggested that the proposal should be seriously discussed with relevant parties. He remarked: ‘Crime by children has become more severe. They are copying it from social media, and criminals are getting younger and younger.’

The proposal has ignited a broader debate about the appropriateness of such a measure. In short, his stance is opposed by powerful elements in the medical and legal establishment.

They argue strongly that consideration must be made for the psychological and developmental aspects of children.

More liberal thinkers argue that lowering the age for criminal responsibility may not be the answer to rising youth crime. It may, they argue, in fact, have unintended consequences.

93% of Thai people want to see the death penalty put to use to curb shocking murders and drug gangs

Undoubtedly, the Thai public will be supportive of the National Police Chief. Significantly, over 90% still support the retention of the death penalty in Thailand.

General Torsak can expect firm resistance to his proposal

In summary, legal experts and child rights advocates are emphasising the importance of a balanced and nuanced approach.

They argue that rather than lowering the age of criminal responsibility, there should be a focus on comprehensive reforms, including improvements in rehabilitation programmes, addressing social issues, and enhancing education and awareness. 

Significantly, the 14-year-old killer was reported to have had an addiction to video gaming.

This case is far from closed. Indeed, it may become a landmark one.

On one hand, the ongoing medical assessments and legal deliberations will shape the fate of the 14-year-old accused. On the other, the appalling, callous and heinous acts he committed on October 3rd cry out for justice. 

The delicate balance between justice, rehabilitation, and the protection of young offenders is in question. It is now at the forefront of legal and societal discussions in Thailand.

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