Six police officers sentenced to life in prison in Thailand

Thai court handed down life sentence to police officers who tortured suspect to death

Six police officers sentenced to life in prison in Thailand

Thailand has sentenced to life imprisonment six police officers, including the former head of the Nakhonsavan police station. The officers were found guilty of torturing a drug suspect. During the interrogation, police officers placed a plastic bag over the suspect’s head, which resulted in the man’s strangulation and death.

The former police officers were originally sentenced to death by the Central Criminal Court for corruption and misdemeanors. However, the sentence was commuted to life in prison because the defendants confessed to some actions, tried to resuscitate the suspect and provided financial assistance to the victim’s family, Khaosod reports.

The sentence was handed down to former police colonel Thithisan Uththanaphon, 39, who was then chief of the Nakhonsavan police station, and five of his direct subordinates. Thithisan is also known by the nickname «Joe Ferrari» because of his collection of luxury cars.

In August 2021, police detained drug suspect Jirapong Thanapat, 24, and took him to Nakhonsawan police station for questioning. During the interrogation, a plastic bag was placed on his head, from which the man died. Despite the fact that video surveillance cameras at the scene were dismantled by unknown assailants, a video of the interrogation and the death of the suspect was leaked.

The footage of the brutal police interrogation went viral, prompting Thitisan to leave his post. He later surrendered to police and, at a press conference organized by police, said the suspect’s death was an accident.

«I didn’t intend to kill him ... I intended to get information to destroy the drug business,» he said.

He also denied allegations that he demanded a bribe from the suspect during the meeting. According to local reports, the alleged torture occurred after the suspect was told to pay a bribe for his release. He was ordered to pay 2 million baht ($58,000) to get the charges dropped, and was assaulted when he refused, the publication reported, citing an informant’s complaint to the police.

The case resonated in Thailand, where police were accused of incompetence and corruption. All those involved in the interrogation were charged with abuse of power, coercion, and torture to death. Six of them were found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

A seventh received a lesser sentence for his testimony; he was originally sentenced to eight years in prison for abuse of power and coercion. But because the defendant confessed to some actions in the case, attempted to resuscitate the suspect and provided financial assistance to the victim’s family, the court reduced the sentence to five years and four months in prison.

The court’s decision was read via video link, as the defendants were not present at the trial and are being held at Klong Prem Central Prison due to coronavirus restrictions. The victim’s parents were in the courtroom. The victim’s father said he felt «helpless during the sentencing, and my wife cried.»

Thithisan denied allegations that police officers tried to extort money from the suspect. The former police colonel said officers tried to get intelligence from the suspect because they found pictures of drugs in the detained man’s cell phone.

The former Nakhonsavan police station chief drew further attention when reporters found 13 luxury cars worth more than 100 million baht in Thithisan’s large mansion, worth 60 million baht. The Customs Department reported that Thithisan seized 368 illegal vehicles, including very expensive cars, as part of its work from 2011 to 2017.

The Department confirmed that Thitisan was entitled to a bounty on the confiscated vehicles. All 363 confiscated cars were sold at auction for about one billion baht. A total of 30 percent of the proceeds were paid to people who provided information to the authorities and 25 percent to arresting officers, including police and customs officers.

Six police officers sentenced to life in prison in Thailand
Former police colonel Thithisanu Uththanaphonu, also known as "Joe Ferrari" because of his collection of luxury cars