During a face-to-face interview with The Phuket News reporters yesterday (Nov 16), Thalang Police Chief Col Somphong Thiparpakul said that so far police had arrested 63 suspects wanted in connection with the riots in Thalang in October last year.
Half a dozen police officers were treated for injuries while over twenty vehicles were vandalised by angry rioters who had encircled the Thalang Police Station in retaliation for the death of two teenagers on Oct 15 last year. (See story here.)
During the interview yesterday, Col Somphong explained, “A total of 86 arrest warrants were issued for suspects involved in the riot. To this day we have arrested 63 of them. Most of these were arrested on separate warrants issued for drug charges. Their cases have been handed over to the Office of Phuket Public Prosecution.”
Col Somphong said those who have been arrested are either out on bail, being held at Phuket Provincial Prison or at the Phuket Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection (DJOP).
“Most of the arrested suspects have been arrested before on drug or other charges so we have a record about them already.
“However, we believe that most of the 23 wanted suspects who are still at large have already left the island and gone to other provinces. We have informed police in other provinces to keep eye out for these wanted men and bring them in,” Col Somphong said.
“I can assure you that we have not neglected this case. To the general public it may seem that we have not arrested anyone because some suspects are not in jail. Our job is to arrest them and pass the cases onto the public prosecutor.
“If some suspects are still out on the streets, this is because their families or community leaders have paid their bail, there is nothing we can we can do about this,” he added.
A post made on the Facepage page of Wipaporn Tawongsri on November 10 concerning one of the suspects named as Mr Uthai Suklien, whose family and friends believe is a scapegoat for this case, states that Mr Uthai was not involved in the riot and even that police from Thalang Police Station have confirmed that CCTV images caught of a man with tattoos was not Mr Uthai.
It also states that Mr Uthai was one man who had an arrest warrant issued for him and that his family must come up with B500,000 bail for public prosecutors. It goes on to say that his family is poor and questions how they would be able to find such money to bail him out. (See post here.)
In reply to this, Col Somphong said, “Most suspects arrested in this case would have denied any involvement even if we have hard evidence against them. In the case of Mr Uthai, he was on the wanted list and I believe investigators had enough evidence to put him on it. I don’t think it is a mistake.
“Beside, the suspect caught on CCTV looked exactly like him but with tattoos. Now people are saying that Mr Uthai does not have any tattoos so he is not the person in the CCTV footage. People can remove a tattoo nowadays, some even have temporary tattoos. We just never know.
“However, his case is with public prosecutors now and it is up to them to decide. Everything we do must be done in accordance with the law,” he said.
“Cases are no longer our responsibility after arrests have been made and details have been sent to the public prosecutors. If the public prosecutor does not want to proceed with the case due to lack of evidence then the case might be dropped.
“Whether suspects including Mr Uthai are guilty or not it is up to the court to decide based on evidence collected,” he added.