Pubdate: Tue, 31 Jul 2012
Source: Bangkok Post (Thailand)
Copyright: The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. 2012


3 get death penalty for 'war on drugs' murder

Three police officers were sentenced to death yesterday for the 2004
murder of a 17-year-old during the Thaksin Shinawatra government's war
on drugs.

Kiattisak Thitboonkrong, of Kalasin province, was arrested in July
2004 for alleged motorcycle theft, but he was found hanged from the
ceiling of a hut in Roi Et's Chang Han district days after being
released from Muang Kalasin police station.

His relatives suspected the teenager was a victim of extra-judicial
killing, which was widespread during the war on drugs campaign between
2003 and 2005.

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) accepted the case and
pressed charges of premeditated murder against six police officers
attached to Muang Kalasin police station.

The Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road in Bangkok read out the
verdict on the case yesterday, sentencing three of the police officers
to death, one to life imprisonment and another to a seven-year prison
sentence. The sixth defendant was acquitted.

Angkhan Khammoonna, Sutthinan Nonthing, and Phansin Uppanan _ all
holding the rank of senior sergeant major _ were sentenced to death
for premeditated murder and hiding a corpse.

Pol Lt Col Sumit Nunsathit was sentenced to life imprisonment for
premeditated murder, while Pol Col Montri Boonlue was sentenced to
seven years in jail for abuse of authority to help protect his
subordinates from prosecution.

The only defendant who was acquitted was Pol Snr Sgt Maj Samphao

Pol Snr Sgt Maj Samphao made a telephone call to arrange Kiattisak's
release on bail on the day he was freed. The court ruled that the
policeman merely performed his duty and did not believe he was
involved in the murder.

Kiattisak's aunt Pikul Prohmchan, grandmother Sa Thitboonkhrong and
other family members showed up at the court room to listen to the verdict.

Thaksin launched the controversial war on drugs in 2003 under his
policy to rid the country of narcotics during his tenure as prime
minister. The campaign, however, resulted in extra-judicial killings
of more than 2,500 suspects.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), led by then-commissioner
Wasant Panich, conducted an inquiry into Kiattisak's death and
reported its findings in 2006.

One of the NHRC's recommendations was for the government to provide
some remedial measures to Kiattisak's family as he had died at the
hands of police officers.

In 2005, the DSI accepted Kiattisak's death as a special case and, on
Sept 9, 2009, the public prosecutor decided to charge the six suspects.

Ms Pikul said she was happy justice had been served but expressed
disappointment that one of the defendants was set free.

"Pol Snr Sgt Maj Samphao Indee was overseeing Muang Kalasin police
station because his boss, Pol Col Montri Boonlue, was not on duty the
day Kiattisak was released," Ms Pikul said.

"Pol Snr Sgt Maj Samphao contacted an insurer to guarantee
Kiatttisak's release despite our family's plan to do so in the next
few days.

"If he hadn't been so hurriedly released, my nephew would not have
disappeared and been killed by the police. But this defendant was set

Solicitor Ratsada Manooratsada said Kiattisak's relatives would appeal
against Pol Snr Sgt Maj Samphao's acquittal.

Ms Pikul said she would call on the Yingluck Shinawatra administration
to comply with the NHRC recommendations on remedial measures.

"The red shirts [killed or injured in protest crackdowns in 2010] have
been given compensation; the victims of southern violence have also
been paid. This case was also caused by state authorities. Therefore,
the government is required to pay for the loss in our family too," she

Ms Pikul was one of three key witnesses in the case who had been under
witness protection provided by the DSI.

However, the witness protection for the three expired with the
conclusion of the case.

The three witnesses will now have to return home or move

"Mother Sa, myself, and another prime witness are now on our own," Ms
Pikul said.

"[The third witness] had to run away and change names and houses
several times because he feels he has been followed around."

Ms Pikul is a representative of Kalasin Relatives of Deceased and
Disappeared Persons due to the Actions of State Officers in the War on
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