“I’ve asked them to study if I can order a re-investigation into the case,” he said when asked about a suggestion that he should invoke his power to revive the case. “We’re in the stage of establishing facts about the justice process and determining who will take charge.”
Prompted by public doubts over the handling of the case by police and prosecutors, Gen Prayut last week set up a nine-member panel headed by former graftbuster Vicha Mahakhun to look into the facts and legal aspects of the case.
The premier also clarified yesterday (Aug 3) that he had ordered the body of new witness Jaruchart Maadthong to be seized for a new autopsy in order to end suspicions about the timing of his death, not because there were suspected irregularities.
Jaruchart was killed in a two-motorcycle crash on Huay Kaew Road in Chiang Mai municipality last Thursday, shortly after his name emerged as one of two new witnesses in the hit-and-run case.
Jaruchart and Air Marshal Jakkrit Thanomkulabutr had told investigators that Mr Vorayuth was not driving at high speed and they had seen the motorcycle of Pol Snr Sgt Maj Wichian Klanprasert cut in front of his Ferrari on Sept 3, 2012. Their statements convinced the prosecutors to drop the final and most serious charge.
“I need to ensure transparency. That’s all. As a supervisor of the police, I’ve asked them if they can [seize the body for a new autopsy]. They’ll have to talk to his family. We have to lessen the doubts with facts,” said Gen Prayut.
A team of doctors at Chiang Mai University’s faculty of medicine yesterday concluded that Jaruchart died of massive bleeding in his brain and in his stomach and there were no injuries to suggest that he had been shot.
Assoc Prof Kanda Mekjaidee, chief of forensic medicine, said the result of the second autopsy was consistent with the first and that the doctors were waiting for the result of a blood test to see if there were any illegal substances in his system.
Mr Vicha emerged from a three-hour meeting yesterday and said that four panels had been set up to review various aspects of the hit-and-run case, including how it was handled by police and prosecutors.
The panel studying the prosecutors’ performance is being headed by Borwornsak Uwanno, chairman of the law reform committee, and the one examining the police investigation is led by Khemchai Chutiwong, chair of the police reform committee.
Justice permanent secretary Wisit Wisitsora has been appointed to head another panel tasked with examining witnesses and individuals in the case who are not police and prosecutors.
It will also address reports from the now-dissolved National Legislative Assembly’s panel on police and justice administration, which worked on the case and would also include representatives from the Anti Money-Laundering Office.
The other committee is in charge of legal aspects and headed by Pakorn Nilprapun, secretary-general of the Council of State.
“We’ll ask the prosecutors to submit their reports,” said Mr Vicha, referring to the findings of the seven-member panel of prosecutors set up to investigate the dismissal of the reckless driving charge against Mr Vorayuth. “Every document will be sent to us.”
According to Office of the Attorney General deputy spokesman Prayuth Phetkhun, the panel will hold a press conference at 10am today at the government office complex on Chaeng Watthana Road, to reveal the results of the investigation so far.
Mr Vicha, however, added that it was too soon to say if the committee would recommend that police challenge the prosecutors’ decision to drop the reckless driving charge and reopen the investigation. “We’ll recommend action only if it can be taken,” he said.
He said it also depended on whether the Wisit panel recommended that Mr Vorayuth be summonsed for questioning.
Meanwhile, the police inquiry committee will invite assistant police chief, Pol Lt Gen Permpoon Chidchob, who did not oppose the prosecutors’ decision, for questioning, said Pol Lt Gen Charuwat Waisaya, vice chairman of the police’s 10-member panel reviewing its own decision.
He insisted the committee was not a “paper tiger” and would take action if any officers were found to be in the wrong.
Social activist Srisuwan Janya yesterday filed a petition with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) accusing the police and the prosecutors of negligence over their handling of the case.