Deputy Justice Minister Thawatchai Thaikhiew has asked officials to meet with the girl’s family to seek information and provide legal assistance.
The plight of 14-year-old Pattarada “Nong Beam” Kaewpong has attracted widespread public sympathy since her mother came forward on Thursday (June 29) with the family’s story.
Pornthip Chantharat, 44, said that lawyer Pisit Sammalert had cheated her family out of almost B5mn in compensation following a 2005 road accident that killed her husband and left their daughter with a serious spinal injury.
The family was in a pickup truck that collided with an 18-wheeler in Surat Thani on Feb 10, 2005.
Mr Pisit had offered to provide legal assistance to the family pro bono, or free of charge.
Ms Porntip said that at the time she was delighted with the offer of help. The lawyer gained her trust, she told officials from the ministry’s Rights and Liberties Protection Department, Thai media reported.
She said the lawyer asked her to sign a document to authorise him to demand compensation from the truck operator. In 2014, the lawyer told her that the truck operator had agreed to pay B1mn in compensation in monthly instalments. Ms Porntip received B40,000 in monthly instalments for seven months but after that the lawyer could not be contacted.
She later contacted the truck operator and learned that his company had paid B5mn in compensation, which it believed was going to the family. This prompted her to file a complaint against Pisit with Bang Yi Khan District Police in Bangkok in 2015.
The lawyer later showed up and negotiated with her. He persuaded her to withdraw the complaint and promised to repay the family. After the complaint was withdrawn, he vanished, said Ms Pornthip.
Ms Pornthip and her daughter sell goods at Wat Cholprathan in Nonthaburi to make ends meet.
Nonthaburi Governor Nisit Chansomwong has ordered local police to work with Bang Yi Khan Police to look into the legal case against the lawyer. Authorities would coordinate with other relevant agencies to remedy the situation, said the governor.
Sarancha Srichonwattana, secretary-general of the Lawyers Council of Thailand, said the council’s committee on ethics would call the accused lawyer for questioning and open an investigation.
If it finds that the lawyer extorted money as claimed, he would be removed from the lawyers' list and face legal action, said the secretary-general.
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