Police investigation boss gives update on death-in-custody case

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The deputy head of the national police, Suchart Teerasawat, has briefed a House Committee on the legal case against Thitisan Utthanaphon. The former Nakhon Sawan police chief is the main suspect in an investigation into the alleged murder of a man while in custody. Thitisan and 6 of his colleagues have been detained after video footage of drugs suspect Chiraphong Thanapat being tortured while under police interrogation went viral.

Thitisan is accused of placing up to 6 plastic bags over the 24 year old’s head. The man can be seen struggling before falling unconscious. The footage prompted nationwide outrage, with PM Prayut Chan-o-cha ordering an investigation into the man’s death.

According to Suchart, a preliminary investigation has found that Chiraphong’s arrest in a sting operation was lawful. Where it all went wrong however, was with what happened after that. Suchart says that when Thitisan took the suspect to hospital, he told medical workers that Chiraphong had lost consciousness while he was being arrested. However, an autopsy shows that he died of suffocation. Suchart says Thitisan is being charged with providing false information to police, but adds that there is no evidence the former police chief was trying to extort money from the man before he died.

Following his surrender to police, Thitisan was permitted to speak to the media and answer questions by phone. During what essentially amounted to a press conference, the accused admitted placing plastic bags over the suspect’s head, but insisted he was not trying to bribe him. There have been claims Thitisan was demanding 2 million baht from the man. In addition to the new perjury charge, the former police chief and 6 other officers have been charged with malfeasance, coercion, murder, and torture.

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SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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