A day of shame as Thai police try to defend revoking “Boss” arrest warrants

Thai Police are being forced to defend their decision to “revoke all arrest warrants” for 35 year old Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, claiming that they could face negligence charges if they pursued a case that prosecutors have already dropped. All warrants and red notices in the Interpol website, the Immigration Bureau and the Office of the Royal Thai Police have been revoked in relation to the hit-and-run case. A few key notes…

• To withdraw a warrant issued by a court, police will have to wait for the courts to re-open after the long weekend holiday (Wednesday).

• After the warrants are officially withdrawn, police would inform Mr Vorayuth, according to the deputy superintendent for investigation at the Thong Lor police station in Bangkok (so, police know where he is or how to contact him?).

Vorayuth Yoovidhya is the grandson of billionaire Red Bull co-founder Chaleo Yoovidhya who died six months before the hit-and-run incident back in 2012.

Justice be damned

The decision to drop all charges against the heir to the Red Bull energy drink empire has sparked public outrage on Thai social media over the impunity enjoyed by the rich in Thailand, a common thread. Neither the police nor the Office of the Attorney-General have provided any details about the factors that led to their decisions. They’ve not called a local media conference to answer questions about the controversial cases but simply maintained that “everything was done according to the law”.

But Thai police are claiming that they are duty-bound to comply with the decision of the Department of Southern Bangkok Criminal Litigation. Prosecutors decided late last month not to press the remaining outstanding charge of “reckless driving causing death” against Mr Vorayuth. The statute of limitations still had 7 years to run on the final charge.

Where did Thais learn about this development in the case? A leading Thai news outlet? A government leak? A police media conference? No. An article on CNN.com on July 23.

Police maintain that they may face prosecution under Section 157 of the Criminal Code, which covers “dereliction of duty by public officials”.

“Boss” was accused of driving his black Ferrari when it slammed into the back of a patrol policeman’s motorcycle “at high speed” on September 3, 2012, dragging his body along Sukhumvit Road before speeding away. The dead policeman was Pol Sgt Maj Wichian Klanprasert, 47 at the time and based at the Thong Lor police station.

“Wichian, a Thai police senior sergeant-major, was riding a motorcycle when he was hit by a speeding Ferrari which dragged his body along the road for over 100 metres before it fled the scene. The Ferrari was later found to have been driven by Vorayuth, a grandson of billionaire Red Bull co-founder Chaleo Yoovidhya.

Vorauth’s lawyer later claimed that Vorayuth’s high blood alcohol levels were due to his drinking at home due to stress following the accident and that he had left the scene to inform his family of what had happened. Vorayuth initially claimed that Suwet Hom-ubol, Vorayuth’s aide and chauffeur, had been behind the wheel during the incident, but later admitted to driving the car himself.

Suwet would later be charged with making false statements to the police. An investigating police officer, Pol Lt Colonel Pannaphol Nammueng, allegedly urged Suwet to pretend to be the Ferrari driver in the fatal hit-and-run. The case has caused continuing outrage in Thailand.” – Wikipedia

It soon emerged that Mr Vorayuth’s lawyer met with a lawyer representing the relatives of Pol Sgt Maj Wichian Klanprasert and agreed on compensation payments in an undisclosed out-of-court settlement. The relatives reportedly decided not to file civil and criminal suits against Mr Vorayuth. But this wouldn’t prevent the state from pursuing the Red Bull heir on criminal charges. Details of the settlement have never emerged.

But the powerful Yoovidhya family paid 3 million baht in compensation to siblings of the dead officer.

Associated Press contacted Porn-anant Klunprasert, the brother of the policeman killed in the hit-and-run incident. He acknowledged signing a contract for 3 million baht in return for not pressing charges. “Blood money” payments remain a cultural norm in many such cases in exchange for justice being financially coerced to turn a blind eye.

But Porn-anant also says that he regretted the decision to drop charges.

“It shows no justice for the poor. Thailand has a very wide gap between the rich and the poor in every aspect, and this case is a clear example.”

Despite his mea culpa moment his family didn’t offer to return the money.

Work commitments

In April 2017, Vorayuth failed for the 8th time to appear in court to answer the charges against him, again citing “work commitments”. But on April 28, 2017 the criminal court approved an arrest warrant for Vorayuth but he’d already fled to Singapore, where he abandoned his private jet. Somehow, the day before, he’d been able to fly out of Thailand. Undetected?!?! Interpol confirmed that Vorayuth departed Singapore on April 27. It was thought he made his way to the UK where the family owns property.

Authorities finally issued an arrest warrant the next month to revoke Boss’s Thai passport, but by that stage Vorayuth had long gone. His current whereabouts are unclear but the media, not the police, have been able to track him down in various places around the world and snapped a few photos (which are the same 5 or 6 photos the media keep recycling).

The Thai authorities’ prevarication and bungling efforts to bring Boss to justice for his alleged crimes remains a sore spot for Thais as the case symbolises the double-standards of Thai justice and the untouchability of the wealthy and privileged classes in the country.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | CNN | NPR

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