HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Extra-Judicial Killings
Pubdate: Mon, 17 Feb 2003
Source: Bangkok Post (Thailand)
Copyright: The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. 2003
Author: Aphaluck Bhatiasevi


Doctors Say Police Thwart Autopsies

Unable To Give Cause Of Unusual Deaths

Doctors are concerned the new autopsy law will become ineffective in the 
face of the government's "carefree" attitude to the killing of drug suspects.

The law requires a doctor to carry out a forensic examination in the case 
of every unnatural death.

Pornthip Rojanasunan, acting director of the Forensic Science Institute, 
said the justice system could be jeopardised by a lack of explanation of 
extra-judicial killings.

Many drug dealers had died since the Feb 1 launch of the government's 
crusade against drugs.

Some were killed by police who said they were acting in self-defence, and 
others by unknown assailants, although police attribute the murders to 
scared drug gangs cleaning out their ranks.

Dr Pornthip said it was essential to identify the cause of death where 
police were involved.

"It should be made clear whether the killing was done in self-defence or 
not," she said.

The law required the presence of at least one doctor at the scene of an 
unnatural death. This was intended to ensure justice for both the suspect 
and the police by identifying the cause of the death, but few people were 
willing to intervene in such cases. They worried about how the police would 

"As it is, doctors don't want to go out to the crime scene. They don't want 
to have any problems with police," she said.

This could result in the judicial system being twisted and cases where 
people had actually been murdered could be overlooked, Dr Pornthip said.

A rural hospital director who declined to be named said although doctors 
felt uneasy about the government's war on drugs, they still needed to go to 
the crime scene as required by law.

"All we can do is report on the location of the bullet and other wounds on 
the body of the dead person.

"We can't say who did what and how the bullet hit the person, as is 
intended by the law," he said.

Though no doctor will say so publicly, police have discouraged them from 
being as open as the law requires.

In some cases witnesses said no fighting had taken place between the victim 
and police before the victim's death.

This could give rise to complaints by family members that the victim was 
killed unlawfully, but doctors were unable to perform checks to give their 
own opinion of the cause of death.

Arak Wangvorachat, president of the Rural Doctors Society, said no members 
had complained officially, but it was clear that many doctors were worried 
about the limitations imposed on them.

Nakhon Phanom hospital director Amphon Hongngam said most doctors called to 
witness crime scenes were not pathologists and could perform only limited 
forensic checks.

Chiang Rai provincial health chief Thepnarumit Netnavin said doctors called 
to a crime scene could not refuse.

"But in cases where there is only one doctor at a hospital we ask another 
staff member to go to the crime scene instead," he said.

"Our priority must be to treat our patients."

Calling out women doctors at odd hours was a problem, because they needed 
to be accompanied for safety reasons.

Tapanawong Tanguraiwan, of Phra Nangklao hospital in Nonthaburi, an 
administrative member of the Medical Council, said no doctor wanted to make 
forensic examinations because they already had a heavy workload and the 
payments were very small.
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