Pol Col Thitisan Utthanaphon, formerly the superintendent of Muang police station in Nakhon Sawan, disappeared three days ago before a video clip of him committing torture and trying to extort money from the suspect was released on social media on Tuesday, said Pol Gen Suwat.
The clip made headlines and prompted Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday to order the police to investigate the incident that reportedly led to the man’s death by suffocation.
The dead suspect was yesterday identified as 24-year-old Chiraphong Thanaphiphat.
The seven police allegedly involved in Chiraphong’s death have been dismissed from their positions and arrest warrants have been issued, said Pol Gen Suwat yesterday.
The suspects, five of whom have already been detained, now face charges for dereliction of duty, torture, and murder.
Four of the detained police have been identified as Pol Maj Rawirot Ditthong, who was the chief investigator of Muang district station.
Also identified were Pol Capt Songyot Khlainak, who was a deputy chief police investigator; Pol Sen Sgt Maj Wisut Bunkhiew; and Pol Sen Sgt Maj Suphakon Nimchuen.
The officers were all from the same station.
The fifth detained former officer is Pawikon Khammarew who is from Takhli district station.
The only two that remain at large are Thitisan and Thoranin Matwanna, who was a deputy chief police investigator at Muang station.
“The police are seeking cooperation from their counterparts in neighbouring countries in attempts to locate Thitisan in case he already has fled across the border,” said Pol Gen Suwat.
On Tuesday lawyer Sittha Biabangkerd posted the clip on his Facebook page in which a police officer putting a plastic bag over the head of a man (Chiraphong), who was wearing a yellow T-shirt.
Other police were present. The clip showed Chiraphong resisting.
The lawyer said he obtained the clip from a junior police officer who sought his help in forwarding the clip to the national police chief.
The junior officer asked the lawyer to follow up on the case before he and his fellow officers were killed, Mr Sittha said.
Immigration police at all border checkpoints have been alerted to the possibility of the suspect attempting to flee the country, said Pol Lt Gen Sompong Chingduang, chief of the Immigration Bureau.
Although all border checkpoints are closed due to the COVID-19 situation, cargo trucks are still allowed to cross the borders, Pol Lt Gen Sompong said.
“The immigration police now seek cooperation from other security authorities in stepping up patrols along borders and at sea for fear the suspect may attempt to sneak out through a forest trail or by sea,” he said.
Meanwhile, state-run Sawanpracharak Hospital, which issued a death certificate for the dead drug suspect, have defended their finding that “methamphetamine poisoning” was the cause of death.
The hospital said it wasn’t a final conclusion as they are still waiting for blood test results to find out the exact levels of methamphetamine in his system.
The results are expected next week.
The hospital said that a forensic examination was conducted on Aug 7 after Chiraphong was referred from a private hospital to Sawanpracharak Hospital on Aug 5.
Chiraphong died on Aug 6, it said.
Sawanpracharak Hospital was informed by a private hospital that the man fell down and lost consciousness while he was running away from police who were chasing him during a drug crackdown.
After the Nakhon Sawan provincial court approved arrest warrants yesterday, police began searching locations where Thitisan might have been, including his luxury house in Kannayao district of Bangkok, said Pol Gen Suwat.
Found at Pol Col Thitisan’s B60mn house were 29 luxury cars worth more than B100mn in total, said a source.
Two Myanmar caretakers told police that Thitisan usually stayed at the house only on weekends, mostly alone but sometimes with his girlfriend.
Meanwhile, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is probing the unusual wealth of Thitisan.
The NACC has the authority to conduct this investigation along with the police investigation into the murder case, said Niwatchai Kasemmongkol, NACC spokesman, yesterday. Evidence about the suspect’s unusual wealth has been compiled and will today be forwarded to the NACC’s subcommittee on assets inspection for consideration, he said.
The 39-year-old is also accused of taking bribes, said Mr Niwatchai.
A police source said Thitisan wasn’t this rich from the beginning but he has built his own wealth out of some grey area businesses including trading edible bird’s nests while he was a deputy sub-division chief at Narcotics Suppression Division 4, overseeing drug suppression operations in the South.
At that time he emerged as a rising star in drug suppression who handled many important cases, which led him to know people in illicit businesses and the bird’s nest trade, said the source.
He later moved on to making money out of suppressing the smuggling of luxury cars and supercars in the South. He earned a lot of money from rewards offered for seizing such cars - 45% of the value of the car confiscated - and handing them over the Customs Department for resale through an auction, said the source.
He earned B900,000 for a car worth B2mn, for instance.
The source did not say to what extent this activity could be considered legitimate.