Criticism flared after photos circulated online showing the three female suspects apparently relaxed and convivial, wearing make-up and posing casually with officers in immigration police custody.
The officers have been accused of giving them preferential treatment.
Preeyanuch “Preaw” Nonwangchai, Kawinta “Earn” Ratchada, and Apiwan “Jae” Satayabundit were arrested on Saturday (June 7) in the Myanmar town of Tachilek, accused of the murder of a 22-year-old karaoke bar worker Warisara Klinjui. They were then handed over to Thai immigration officers in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district.
Another two suspects, Wasin Namprom, 25, and Jidarat Promkhun, 21, were arrested on May 30.
The order to transfer the immigration officers was issued by Immigration Division 5 chief Maj Gen Bandit Tungkasanee to the Royal Thai Police (RTP). It was signed on Sunday (June 4), but the order was just released to the public yesterday (June 6).
Under the order, Lt Col Rithikrai Karakol, deputy superintendent of Chiang Rai immigration office, and Capt Thawatsilp Boontanla, deputy inspector of the office, have been moved to the operations centre of Immigration Division 5.
Preeyanuch allegedly confessed to strangling Ms Warisara and dismembering her body. The victim’s body parts were recovered from a shallow grave in Khon Kaen’s Khao Suan Kwang district on May 25.
The Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) insisted Preeyanuch had been involved with a transnational drug network, citing its investigation.
“Upon questioning, Preeyanuch denied [links to the drug ring],” ONCB secretary-general Sirinya Sitdhichai said. “This is her right, but the ONCB is seeking information and evidence from Myanmar’s anti-drug agency to support [the accusation].”
Wirachai Petchrat, chief of Khon Kaen Central Prison, where the suspects have been held, said yesterday that Apiwan had tested positive for drug use. She admitted to taking drugs in Myanmar, he added.
Mr Sirinya noted the ONCB has shared with Myanmar authorities the information of an arrest warrant for a man believed to have helped the trio flee over the border. He was identified as Thawatchai “Kao” Om-chompu.
Meanwhile yesterday, Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution, petitioned the ombudsman to launch a probe into the list of as many as 99 police officers who claimed to be involved in the arrests of the murder suspects.
He said he feared some officers who were not really involved with the operation may claim to have played a part to further their promotion chances.
Deputy national police chief Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said ordinary arrest documents contain names of officers involved, such as those who supervised, issued orders, carried out operations and took part in the investigation.
In principle, all officers involved must be named on the document since they have to be present in court as witnesses, said deputy police spokesman Kritsana Pattanacharoen. It could take about two months for police to gather evidence on the case and forward the investigation report to prosecutors, he added.
But Gen Srivara insisted such name lists cannot be used to ask for promotions.
Mr Srisuwan also said the use of police aircraft to transport the three suspects to Bangkok and to Khon Kaen was unnecessary, as it costs B150,000 a trip. The suspects were flown to Bangkok for the sole purpose of a news conference, he added.
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