The Royal Thai Police Office (RTPO) has set up a 10-member panel to review its own decision to agree with prosecutors dropping the charge against Red Bull heir Vorayuth Yoovidhya of reckless driving causing death.
The statute of limitation in the high-profile hit-and-run case, in which a junior policeman was killed in 2012, would not have expired until 2027 but by not challenging the prosecution’s decision to withdraw the charge, the matter has now been put to rest.
Deputy police spokesman Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen said national police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda had appointed a fact-finding committee to look into the way police handled the issue and determine if it was in accordance with due laws and regulations.
The panel, which is headed by Pol Gen Satawat Hirunburana, has 15 days to complete the inquiry, he said.
The police inquiry into its own actions came after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was quoted as saying at the weekend that he wanted a probe into the entire process to ensure full transparency.
Meanwhile, a memo said to have been written by a non-commissioned police officer and addressed to the RTPO circulated on social media yesterday, voicing displeasure over perceived failure by the police to ensure fair treatment for its own officers.
Vorayuth 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 3rd September 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 prosecutors’ document, which has been seen by media, the final charge was also dropped due to new information coming to hand. This claimed the victim’s motorcycle abruptly changed lane and cut in front of Mr Vorayuth’s Ferrari, which was travelling at a legal speed in the far right lane. Forensic police had previously concluded that Vorayuth had been driving at 177kph.
The move to drop the most serious charge has sparked public outrage and the Office of Attorney (OAG) on Sunday set up a seven-member working team headed by Deputy Attorney General Somsak Tiyawanich to look into the handling of the case.
The Bangkok Post said they contacted Saiprasit Koetniyom, Director of Automotive Safety and Assessment Engineering Research Centre at King Mongkut’s University of Technology, North Bangkok, one of the experts cited in the document. He refused to make any comment on the matter.
Prayuth Pethckhun, OAG’s deputy spokesman, said yesterday the panel was expected to meet today and the panel head would set guidelines for the fact-finding inquiry. He declined to say whether the inquiry could change the prosecution’s decision.
Critics continued to step up pressure against the OAG and the police over the case with the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT) and law lecturers from Thammasat University joining the call for both agencies to clarify their positions.
The corruption watchdog also demanded that the prime minister come up with guidelines to restore public confidence while calling it a shame that the Thai public only learned about the case from a foreign news agency.
“We are calling for a clear explanation from both of them, as well as guidelines from the prime minister, as to how he will restore shaken faith and trust in the country’s criminal justice administration,” said the ACT.
The group of Thammasat law lecturers said the prosecutors needed to come up with a solid explanation for their decision and further demanded a probe into the prosecution’s role to determine if their judgment was made in a fair and transparent manner.
Anti-corruption activist Veera Somkwamkid yesterday pointed out what he said were “irregularities” in the case.
He said the decision to drop the charge was signed by Deputy Attorney General, Nate Naksuk, while an assistant police chief, Pol Lt Gen Permpoon Chidchob, signed on behalf of the police chief not to contest the prosecution’s decision.
The National Legislative Assembly’s committee on justice and police affairs was put under the spotlight when reports emerged that it had petitioned the OAG for a fair investigation and prompted a review that eventually led to the charge being dropped.
Adm Sitthawat Wongsuwon, a senator who chaired the NLA’s panel, said yesterday that Thanee Onla-iad, a senator and panel member, would clarify the matter later this week.
Palang Pracharath Party MP for Bangkok Sira Jenjaka, chairman of a House committee on justice and human rights, yesterday said those summonsed must appear in person.