Thailand’s most popular police officer, General Surachate Hakparn, widely known as Big Joke, expressed dismay over the Sa Kaeo police scandal. The case unfolded after the wrongful arrest of a murder victim’s husband, Uncle Piak, quickly turned into a shocking revelation of police misconduct.
Thailand’s most famous police officer this week issued a cry from the heart. General Surachate Hakparn or Big Joke expressed his exasperation and disgust in the wake of a police scandal in Sa Kaeo Province. This saw a 56-year-old husband of a murder victim charged for the act, just hours after her brutal demise. Both were vulnerable people, the accused a chronic alcoholic while the victim was mentally impaired. Later, a commanding officer discovered clear CCTV evidence that the accused was not involved leading to a massive investigation. In short, General Surachate travelled to Sa Kaeo himself to get to the bottom of the matter. Afterwards, it was learned the man was tortured into a false confession. Following that, it emerged that a gang of four youths responsible for the killing included the sons of local policemen.
A widening controversy in the eastern province of Sa Kaeo has thrown policing both locally and nationally into turmoil.
It started with a violent murder. The investigating station was Aranyaprathet Police Station in Aranyaprathet, a large town bordering Cambodia where the incident took place.
The victim was a mentally impaired 47-year-old woman.
She was brutally battered to death and thrown into a nearby body of water. The murder occurred in the early hours of Tuesday, January 11th.
The case saw the victim’s 56-year-old husband, an alcoholic and former convict, framed for her murder.
His name was Mr Panya Kongsaenkham also known as Uncle Piak. His wife was Ms Buapan Tansu, also known as Auntie Buapan or Auntie Kob.
Top brass from Bangkok including the national police chief and Big Joke descended on Aranyaprathet Station in Sa Kaeo Province. The news was bad indeed
At the same time, contradictory evidence was dramatically uncovered which confirmed that a youth gang committed the crime. The gang consisted of sons of serving police officers in the province.
The group attacked the woman after she verbally abused them and threw an object in their direction. Her body was found later in a pond.
Following the bombshell revelations in the murder case of Aunt Buapan, confidence in the force is at a low ebb. Top brass from Bangkok were dispatched.
Subsequently, Deputy National Police Chief General Surachate Hakparn ultimately expressed disgust and exasperation.
Undeniably, he has seen the same pattern too often. Police General Surachate is also known in Thailand as ‘Big Joke’ and is the country’s most high-profile officer. He is seen as a campaigner against police corruption
Police Chief General Torsak Sukwimon, General Hakparn and Deputy Chief Police General Thana Chuwong, urgently flew to Sa Kaeo together last week. They were there to expedite the investigation into the violent murder of Ms Buapan.
However, what unfolded was a confirmation of shocking police misconduct. Afterwards, there was an apology from Police General Torsak.
Grave mistake by police to arrest the victim’s husband, 56-year-old Uncle Piak. He was cruelly tortured into confessing to the crime of murdering his wife
At length, General Torsak admitted to the grave mistake made by Sa Kaeo Police in the arrest of Uncle Piak, Aunt Buapan’s husband. Subsequently, charges were based on flawed evidence and a confession obtained through torture.
Police were forced to admit that a black bag was placed over Uncle Piak’s head to obtain the forced confession.
The police coverup and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice was unearthed when an audio clip was made public. In brief, the audio captured the moment a police lieutenant colonel expressed shock upon realising the wrongful arrest. Afterwards, the scale and nature of the miscarriage of justice were laid bare,
‘Big Joke’, known for his strict stance on law enforcement, confirmed the authenticity of the audio clips. He expressed his bitter disappointment, disclosing, ‘The police audio clips are believed to be authentic.’
Then, he went on to complain that he was tired. He said he understood the public was disgusted with the police’s behaviour. In truth, officers had concealed the true nature of the murder. Instead, they forced Uncle Piak, the husband of the victim to confess.
Police Chief Torsak took a more nuanced view calling for a full examination of events. He ordered both disciplinary and criminal investigations of the affair
Despite admitting the mistake, National Police Commissioner Torsak Sukwimon urged caution in drawing any conclusions.
He emphasised the need to verify all details before making them public, especially regarding the authenticity of the audio clips. He called for a comprehensive examination of the incident.
In short, this is underway involving the Inspector General of the Royal Thai Police, Police General Kraiboon Thaudsong. In addition, police disciplinary investigations are being pursued with a criminal probe in the hands of Police General Thana Chuwong.
General Torsak acknowledged the public’s discontent with the situation. In the last 48 hours, he made that clear.
‘I’m not tired, and I’m not in pain. When problems arise, they must be fixed. We must try to keep it all within the framework.’
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He vowed that the days of evil police being tolerated were gone.
At the same time, he highlighted ongoing efforts within the police force to maintain discipline. The senior policemen pointed out that more than 300 officers were removed from the force in 2023. Meanwhile, there were orders to dismiss over 60 more.
Big Joke’s criticism of the behaviour of the police involved in the Sa Kaeo case was scathing. Undoubtedly, he echoed public sentiment: ‘I myself am tired. And the people are so fed up that they don’t know what to do. As a commander, you yourself have to go down and fix it.’
Expressing his frustration, Big Joke called for immediate action and accountability. He stated that the investigations should be expedited. Emphatically, he called for immediate action. ‘Don’t let it go for 5-6 days without progress.’
He passionately demanded legal action against those responsible for the wrongful arrest of Uncle Piak. At the same time, he urged a thorough review of police conduct.
Accused man tells his story to the media. Arrested, chained to a chair, beaten and then had a black bag placed over his head. Nearly went unconscious while tortured
Uncle Piak, the wrongly accused individual, detailed his harrowing experience.
Shortly after finding out about the demise of his loving wife, he was arrested.
During interrogation, the 56-year-old was chained to a chair. After that, he was beaten while officers urged him to confess to battering and killing his wife.
Finally, he had a black bag placed over his head and was brought to the point of unconsciousness. Consequently, he was forced to confess. He signed a written statement containing lies and was brought before the court.
The mistreatment and forced confession raised serious concerns about the police force and its tactics.
The public, in truth, has been concerned and indeed outraged since news broke in 2021 of a high-flying young police officer later convicted of capital murder.
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In a disturbing moment for Sa Kaeo Province, Uncle Piak identified who was behind his forced confession. He pointed out the police officer who hurt him, forced him to identify the crime scene, and confess falsely.
The released audio clips provided a timeline and context within which the Sa Kaeo police case was solved and the perversion of justice was revealed.
Coverup collapsed once the audio clips were released and verified. Commanding officer realised the gravity of the situation when he saw the CCTV evidence
Once Police General Surachate had access to them and verified them, the coverup collapsed.
Recorded conversations between police officers, including the police lieutenant colonel, revealed shock and panic. They could not deny the wrongful arrest, maltreatment of Uncle Piak and a plot to frame him.
The audio clips, recorded on January 13, 2024, exposed the flawed investigation process. They were recorded while viewing CCTV footage. A police sergeant major was tasked with collecting the evidence and was revealing the contents to the commanding officer.
The pained senior officer was heard shouting ‘Shit’ in response. This was on the realisation that the wrong man was in custody. The urgency expressed in the recordings highlighted the severity of the situation.
The police audio tapes were only recorded after Uncle Piak was on his way to appear before Sa Kaeo Provincial Court. The police commander was working on evidence in the case and asked for CCTV footage from the scene.
CCTV video left no doubt who was culpable in the case and that an innocent man was elaborately set up for murdering his wife by the local police
What was discovered was reported back to him. He was left in no doubt. A young teenage gang, 4 boys on a motorbike had assaulted the older woman.
The 6 audio clips simultaneously confirmed who carried out the murder and the miscarriage of justice.
‘Oh my god, woe to me,’ said the senior officer after his interaction with the video footage revealed the extent of the disaster. To the officer’s credit, the injustice was reversed and Uncle Piat released from prison.
The Sa Kaeo case has stirred public outcry. Members of the public openly expressed their discontent over the mishandling of the investigation.
The incident comes at a critical time, with public concerns rising about law enforcement in Thailand. In particular, the impunity with which young teenagers appear to enjoy.
Moreover, the fact that the gang responsible for the death of the 47-year-old woman involved the sons of police officers came as a shattering blow.
Growing concern and public outcry at youth crime
Similarly, media reports in recent days are filled with news of rampaging gangs of teenagers on motorbikes. Unquestionably, there is a pattern of harassing the elderly and thumbing their noses at the law.
This all comes on the heels of the stop on the prosecution of a 14-year-old mentally ill teenager responsible for the Siam Paragon mass shooting on October 3rd 2023. Three people were killed including a Chinese tourist.
Afterwards, Police General Torsak Sukwimol came out to call for a lowering of the age of criminal responsibility.
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In the meantime, it is reported that the gang responsible for the murder of Aunty Buapan have been taken off the streets.
At the same time, the National Police Chief General Torsak has appealed for public understanding. This followed a meeting of the Police Commission in Bangkok this week.
Calls for new legislative reform programme for the Royal Thai Police even after the last government’s Police Act, which focused on forced disappearances
He explained that there were over two hundred thousand hardworking police officers.
He promised that all disciplinary powers would be used against officers who fail to uphold the law. Additionally, he promised that commanding officers who fail to supervise them will also be held accountable.
However, the fallout from this case has potentially impacted the reputation of the entire police force. Certainly, it raises questions about the competence and accountability of local police forces.
As investigations unfold, the Sa Kaeo case has become a focal point for discussions on police reform, transparency, and the need for a modern and accountable police force.
A landmark police bill, passed by the last government, focused on forced disappearances and the unlawful arrest of suspects. At this time, the fears about the force are broader and perhaps deeper.