Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Court drops Lese Majeste; Police deny beating Lak Si shooter; Bt3bn Australia-bound heroin bust in Ranong; Activists slam Thai seafood slavery


Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Court drops Lese Majeste case over lack of strong proof
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The Court of Appeal gave an alleged lese majeste offender the benefit of the doubt yesterday and acquitted him after the man’s computer notebook – confiscated by police – was found to have been activated twice while he was in detention.

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The court said the information in the computer, which was presented as evidence, might have been changed, as it had been activated prior to the day it was sent for examination.

Computer programmer Surasak Phuchaisaeng, 43, also known as Suraphak Phuchai-saeng, said he was relieved after hearing the ruling and hoped |it would set a precedent for others.

Suraphak was arrested and detained for 14 months before the court of first instance found him not guilty on October 31, 2012. He was accused of being behind a post defaming His Majesty.

Although the court of first instance had found him not guilty, the prosecutors continued to fight through the Court of Appeal.

Suraphak said he had no plan to sue police who arrested him, leading to 14-months in jail.

The Appeal Court had said that as there was no foolproof evidence that Suraphak was the person behind the messages, he must be acquitted.

Police deny beating confession from Lak Si shooter
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Police yesterday denied they had beaten the so-called “popcorn gunman” suspect to extract a confession that he was involved in the shooting incident at Laksi one day before the February 2 election.

Puangtip Bunsanong, lawyer for Wiwat Yodprasit, who is widely known as the “popcorn gunman”, claims her client was assaulted by police to force him to confess to the charges.

National police chief Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew insisted that Wiwat was not a scapegoat as some observers had claimed.

Pol Colonel Athip Pongsiwapai, superintendent of Thung Song Hong Police Station, said the claim that the police beat the suspect to make him confess was groundless. He said the suspect had the right to change his statement and it would be up to the court’s judgement.

“We have solid evidence, footage from a security camera and images from the social media networks. It is impossible that police who arrested him beat him up,” he said.

Athip said police would check evidence which would be used to seek court approval for issuing an arrest warrant for Sumet, or Men, Trakulwunnu, an anti-government protest guard chief at the Chaeng Wattana rally base.

Police want Sumet on charges of illegally harbouring Wiwat after he allegedly committed a crime.

The court earlier rejected a police request to issue an arrest warrant for Sumet without giving a reason, Athip said.

Moves to block CAPO funds
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A Senate committee has asked the Election Commission (EC) to suspend approval for the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO)’s use of central funds, on constitutional grounds.

Appointed Senator Air Chief Marshal Veeravit Kongsak, chairman of the Committee on Corruption and Promotion of Good Governance, said he has endorsed an urgent request to EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen to consider suspending the use of Bt2.3 billion in funds by the CAPO.

He said the request was based on a sub-panel’s scrutiny of the police and the Budget Bureau concerning the use of funds by the CAPO. The caretaker Cabinet had earlier sought EC approval of funding for CAPO’s activities.

The panel found the CAPO had used the central fund before the government received EC approval, which is a breach of Article 181 (2) of the Constitution.

Pro-govt group tears down Army bunker
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The Bangkok-based pro-government faction, the People’s Radio Media Group, pulled down a military checkpoint near the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) office in Nonthaburi yesterday.

The group pulled apart the checkpoint in Tiwanon 37 Road after the NACC barred all protesters, except group leader Sornrak Malaithong, from entering the NACC building. Sornrak presented an additional statement relating to his request that the NACC launch an ethical probe into the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The NHRC had approved an enquiry into a red-shirt rally between March 12 and August 19, 2010.

Sornrak said his group would block all NACC gates with barriers today and not allow any officials from the NACC to work.

First Army Division Commander Maj-General Wara Boonyasit said demonstrators led by the People’s Radio for Democracy group had demolished the bunker and tent of the security checkpoint at noon.

As a result, the Army had to relocate the post, Wara said.

He said his division would now deploy a mobile unit to check security at the spot regularly.

Wara said the Army set up the checkpoint to prevent assailants from firing M79 grenades at the NACC office.

2 nabbed with Australia-bound heroin
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A total of 147 kilograms of grade-A heroin, with a street value of more than Bt3 billion, was discovered hidden in a frozen-seafood container heading to Australia from Ranong.

Two men – one Malaysian and the other Thai, both in their 40s – were also arrested in the drug bust that stemmed from a month-long operation between Thai and Australian police.

Pol General Pongsapat Pongcharoen, secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), told the press that Malaysian national Yi Yong Ho and his Thai accomplice Kritsana Meenant used a marine-life export company’s office in tambon Bang Rin to repackage the narcotics to send along with the seafood products to Australia.

The Australian Federal Police had previously contacted their Thai counterparts to inquire about a large batch of heroin would be sent to Australia, so Thai police decided to investigate the case, Pongsapat said.

The investigation team learned that a group of Malaysian suspects, particularly Yi, had made several trips from Malaysia to Bangkok and Ranong last November, he said. Then the team learned that the man had returned to Ranong in February, possibly for further planning and making connections.

On Tuesday night, Yi and Kritsana returned to Ranong to take the drugs to the company’s office for repackaging, Pongsapat said.

The Thai police team had been tailing the pair for nearly a month and decided to arrest them at this point. The seized heroin carried the Lion on Globe logo, which reportedly originated from Myanmar, and was found packed in 420 small packets and hidden in 23 boxes of seafood, Pongsapat said. The total amount of heroin seized weighed 147kg and could fetch up to Bt3 billion in Australia.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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