Police draw criticism for paying killers

‘Culture of impunity’ in force, says rights group
Published: 24/10/2012 at 01:31 AM
Newspaper section: News

Asenior police officer’s decision to provide financial assistance to five policemen found guilty of murder during the government’s war on drugs in 2004 has drawn flak from relatives of the victim and a regional human rights group.

Pikul Promchan, a representative of the family of Kiettisak Thitboonkrong who was murdered by Kalasin police eight years ago, said she and Kiettisak’s family were disheartened to learn about the cash assistance given to the convicts.

On Sept 25, Pol Lt Gen Sompong Khongpetchsak, Region 4 Police commander, presented Pol Lt Col Sumitr Nanthasathit and four other officers convicted in the case with 100,000 baht in financial help.

The money, according to the Region 4 Police website, was intended as welfare support to the five police officers convicted of murder while perfoming their duty at Kalasin police station.

The Criminal Court ruled on July 30 this year that Pol Lt Col Sumitr and the other officers murdered Kiettisak, 17, during the height of the government’s war on drugs campaign in 2004.

The police arrested Kiettisak on July 16, 2004 for allegedly stealing a motorcycle. When his family learnt about his arrest, they went to the station to talk to him. His grandmother was allowed to witness his interrogation on July 22, 2004. She was told Kiettisak would be freed on bail later that day.

But Kiettisak never came home. Several days later his mutilated body was found in a neighbouring province.

Following his death, his family launched a campaign for an investigation into his death, accusing the Kalasin police of being responsible for killing him and 27 other individuals during the campaign.

As a result of the family’s legal push, the court heard the matter and sentenced three of the officers to death. They were identified as Pol Senior Sergeant Majors Angkarn Kammoonna, Sutthinant Noenthing and Phansilp Uppanant.

Pol Lt Col Sumitr was sentenced to life imprisonment while police station chief Pol Col Montri Boonlue was sentenced to seven years in prison.

A sixth defendant _ Pol Sen Sgt Maj Samphao Indee _ was acquitted.

Ms Pikul said the officers were released on bail immediately and on top of that received cash assistance, which in her view was wrong.

The family, meanwhile, fears for its safety after three people, including Ms Pikul and Kiettisak’s grandmother, were dropped from the witness protection scheme when the case concluded.

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission expressed dismay over the police decision to give the convicted officers financial help.

The commission called on Pol Lt Gen Sompong and the Royal Thai Police Office to take a clear stand against extrajudicial violence and make a distinction between officers performing their duty legally, and murder.

“Pol Lt Gen Sompong’s action was an attempt to undo the courageous stand taken by the Criminal Court and thereby restore the ‘normal’ order of things, in which police enjoy impunity for torture, killing, enforced disappearance and other gross abuses of human rights,” the group said.

“Pol Lt Gen Sompong’s financial gift to the five police, and the assertion [the cash] is to aid them in facing a conviction that arose from actions they took while carrying out their duty, speaks to a culture of non-accountability that pervades the Royal Thai Police.”Waraporn Utairangsee, the victim’s family lawyer, said she has asked the court to extend its appeal process, as the court has yet to come up with a written account of its verdict.

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