Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered an inquiry into the prosecution’s decision to drop a reckless driving charge against Red Bull heir Vorayuth Yoovidhya following the public outrage over the news, according to government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat.
She said the prime minister is following the issue closely and he has instructed authorities to gather facts about the prosecution’s criminal investigation of the case.
The Prime Minister also called on critics and media outlets not to seize on the controversy and distort facts or cause misunderstanding while insisting he has never intervened in the justice administration process and the prosecution works under no political pressure, according to Ms Pinyosinwat.
The prosecution’s decision to drop the charge has stirred outrage among the public who see it as another example of a culture of impunity enjoyed by the rich and demanded the Office of Attorney-General (OAG) clarify the reason behind the decision. Netizens were quick to point out that in April the Yoovidhya family donated 300 million baht for the government to handle COVID-19.
A lawyer who claimed he saw the document detailing the prosecutors’ reasons said the decision was a result of the testimony of two witnesses who said the killed policeman abruptly changed lanes on his motorcycle causing the fatal hit-and-run incident in 2012.
The document was seen yesterday by several media outlets and circulated on social media with eyebrows raised over the validity of the “new evidence” that prompted the prosecutors to reverse the decision.
Mr Yoovidhya was accused of being behind the wheel when his Ferrari hit and killed Pol Sgt Maj Wichian Klanprasert, a motorcycle policeman, on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok, on Sept 3, 2012.
The charges of speeding and failing to stop and help a crash victim were dropped earlier as a result of the expiry of the statute of limitations. It emerged last week that the prosecution in June had dropped the final, most serious charge of reckless driving causing death.
According to the document, the new information showed the crash took place when the victim’s motorcycle abruptly changed lane and cut in front of Mr Yoovidhya who was driving under the legal limit in the far right lane. Previously, forensic police had concluded that Mr Vorayuth had been driving at 177km/h.
Netizens also drew comparisons between this case and last year’s drunk-driving case against Somchai Werotepipat who was initially charged with murder and attempted murder when his car crashed and killed a police officer and his wife.
The Taling Chan court rejected both charges and accepted three others: drink driving causing death, reckless driving causing serious injury and drink driving causing property damage.
It was reported the prosecution appealed the court’s decision to suspend the prison term, although he had earlier paid 45 million baht compensation to the victims’ family and agreed to give monthly expenses as well as offered to sponsor the family’s daughters’ education.
The OAG, which is under growing pressure to break its silence, yesterday issued a press release announcing that Attorney-General Wongsakul Kittipromwong has appointed a seven-member working team headed by deputy AG Somsak Tiyawanich to look into the handling of the case by the Department of Southern Bangkok Criminal Litigation.
The growing rage led to the hashtag #saynotoredbull trending on social media, prompting the maker of energy drink giant Red Bull to distance itself from the case, saying the case “is a personal affair of Mr Vorayuth Yoovidhya”.
On Saturday, TCP Group released a statement over what it claimed it was a “misunderstanding” over Mr Yoovidhya’s relationship with the company.
Although the seven shareholders of the TCP Group are members of the Yoovidhya family, Mr Yoovidhya “has never assumed any role in the management and daily operations of TCP Group, was never a shareholder, nor has he held any executive position within TCP Group,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, Palang Pracharath Party MP for Bangkok Sira Jenjaka, in his capacity as chairman of a House committee on justice and human rights, yesterday scheduled a meeting on Wednesday when police officials and prosecutors will be invited in for questioning about the case.
“As far as I’m concerned, there has been only been attempts to seek justice for the suspect, while not a single person at the Royal Thai Police Office has ever tried to seek justice for the dead police officer or at the very least tried to protect the integrity of the police as a whole,” he said.