Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered a probe into the alleged killing of a drug suspect by a group of Nakhon Sawan policemen.
Led by a top officer, they allegedly suffocated the drug suspect to death with a plastic bag in a botched attempt to extort 2 million baht out of him.
The premier ordered the probe after a clip featuring the alleged incident was shared on Facebook and went viral.
Gen Chan-o-cha ordered national police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk to launch the fact-finding probe into the incident and against Pol Col Thitisan Utthanaphon, superintendent of Muang police station in Nakhon Sawan.
“The prime minister wants the national police chief to examine the clip and to give justice to the deceased,” said a source at Government House.
Shortly after receiving the order, Pol Gen Jangyodsuk said he had already seen the clip and an investigation was underway to establish what had happened. He said he ordered police inspector-general Visanu Prasattongosoth to examine the clip.
This move came after lawyer Sittha Biabangkerd posted the clip on his Facebook page on Tuesday that featured one police officer putting a plastic bag over the head of a man wearing a yellow T-shirt in the presence of other policemen. The clip showed the man resisting.
The lawyer wrote that 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 Biabangkerd said.
The clip sparked a barrage of condemnation by netizens against the senior police officer and the men shown in the clip.
On Tuesday evening, Pol Gen Jangyodsuk ordered all officers involved in the clip to be dismissed from the police force.
“After seeing the clip, we believe those officers involved committed an offence. The clip is real. An order will be issued to dismiss them from the police force and a serious disciplinary investigation will be launched,” said the police chief.
An initial investigation found there were 13 police officers involved, said Pol Gen Jangyodsuk.
He ordered border patrol police, immigration officers and Provincial Police Region 6 to keep a close watch on them to prevent them from evading prosecution.
The police chief said Pol Gen Prasattongosoth has already met Pol Col Utthanaphon, the accused officer in the clip.
An investigation was launched after the incident was made public by celebrity lawyer Decha Kittiwittayanan on Facebook.
According to Mr Kittiwittayanan’s post, it all began with the arrest of a man and woman for alleged drug offences by a team from the provincial police.
The officers, he said, pressed the pair into agreeing to pay 1 million baht for their release.
However, a senior officer then demanded the pair pay double that amount.
While they negotiated the amount, the officer put a plastic bag over the man’s head to intimidate him, but he suffocated and died, according to the Facebook post.
Before sending the body to the hospital, the senior officer instructed his subordinates to make sure the man’s cause of death was listed as a drug overdose.
He then released the woman from custody, in exchange for keeping her mouth shut.
The name of the superintendent was later revealed as Pol Col Utthanaphon, superintendent of Muang police station in Nakhon Sawan.
Pol Col Utthanaphon, alias Jo Ferrari, was a student at the Royal Police Cadet Academy (class 57).
His alias came from the fact that he owned many sports cars, including a Lamborghini limited-edition Aventador LP 720-4 50 Anniversary special. He was reportedly the first Thai to own this car.
Regarded as one of the best drug suppression officers, he has been taken to the Operation Centre of Provincial Police Region 6 for questioning.