Police to quiz Kamnan Poh's kin

Children thought to be among 10 abettors

Police will question former fugitive Somchai Khunploem's relatives and officials who are suspected of being involved in helping him evade the law.

The family of Kamnan Poh showed up Thursday to visit him. Police say family members are suspected of abetting his years on the run from the law. (Second photo below)

National police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew said Thursday that those who provided shelter to Somchai, alias Kamnan Poh, and those who helped him escape arrest must be questioned.

He said police from the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) had received tips that Somchai had been seen living in Thailand, which eventually led to the arrest on Wednesday of the former mayor of Saen Suk in Chon Buri province's Muang Chon Buri district.

The "Godfather of Chon Buri" was convicted in March last year in absentia by the Supreme Court for masterminding the murder of political rival Prayoon Sitthichoke at a wedding reception in March 2003. He was handed a sentence of 25 years in prison. He had been on the run since early 2006.

Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) commissioner Pol Lt Gen Pongpat Chaiyaphan said Thursday the CSD will consider legal action against those who sheltered Somchai.

Police had received tip-offs from social networks as well as from the public for several months that Somchai was living in Chon Buri.

They sent a team of investigators to the province to gather information and arrest him.

Police faced difficulties in doing their work in the area as Somchai is an influential man in the region, Pol Lt Gen Pongpat said. He said they did not use their usual method of using informants as this could have made the target suspicious or led to information leaks.

Pol Lt Gen Pongpat said the arrest of Somchai will help restore the image of the police force.

A police source said about 10 people living in a house named Ban Saen Suk in Chon Buri's Muang district are believed to have sheltered Somchai.

The suspects include Somchai's sons and daughters.

The source said Somchai was spotted living a normal life in the house and travelling around to other areas.

The car which Somchai travelled in belongs to Winai Phonphaipharn, a kamnan of tambon Samet in Chon Buri's Muang district.

Police will need some time to gather evidence before calling in suspects for questioning, the source said.

The source said Somchai had to travel to Bangkok to receive treatment because he was seriously ill. Doctors had diagnosed him with nasal cavity cancer, the source said.

Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital in Bangkok claimed there was no history of Somchai's treatment because Somchai checked in at an emergency unit of the hospital, the source said.

Pol Maj Gen Supisarn Phakdinaruenart, chief of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), Thursday indicated he might decline to take action against those who sheltered Somchai or doctors who treated him.

He said doctors are duty-bound to treat patients while efforts by relatives or children to shelter their father are considered an act of gratitude in the Thai context. A "special motive" must be demonstrated to file charges against people for such acts, he said. A special motive would involve someone actively helping the person beyond showing gratitude.

He has ordered investigators to gather more proof to identify this "special motive". He said police so far cannot file charges under Section 59 of the Criminal Procedure Code against those who helped hide Somchai because of a lack of evidence.

He said special motives that would prompt police to press charges may arise when relatives help a convict leave the country, or provide shelter to an inmate who had escaped prison.

Relatives sheltering a convict even after police have searched their house can also be considered a special motive, Pol Maj Gen Supisarn said.

He said police will ask Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital for information about Somchai's treatment.

Police suspect Somchai was registered at the hospital under the false name of Kim Sae Tang.

Police will seek a court warrant to obtain the information if the hospital refuses to divulge it, Pol Maj Gen Supisarn said.

Filial visit: Chon Buri provincial administration organisation chairman Witthaya Khunploem arrives at the Medical Correctional Institution on Ngam Wong Wan Road to visit his father Somchai Khumploem, who is receiving treatment there.

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