Kamnan Poh officially starts serving prison term

Looking frail and fatigued, the man once dubbed "the godfather of the East" began serving his prison sentence on Friday after admitting to the Criminal Court that he was the defendant convicted in a corruption case involving the 1992 sale of land in a forest reserve for use as a garbage dump.

Criminal Court chief judge Thawee Prachuablarb said the prison sentence handed down to Somchai Khunploem in the Khao Mai Kaew corruption land case, in Bang Lamung district of Chon Buri, took effect today.

He received a sentence of five years and four months for the offence after the Supreme Court ruled in absentia in 2006 that he was guilty, upholding lower court judgements. Somchai had fled before the court ruling.

Two days will be deducted from the time still to serve because he has already spent two days in prison since being arrested on Wednesday.

Somchai Khunploem sits in a wheel chair while being taken to the Criminal Court to confirm his involvement on the Khao Mai Kaew land corruption case on Feb 1, 2013. (Photo by Surapol Promsaka na Sakolnakorn).

After which, Somchai, aka Kamnan Poh, must start serving another sentence. He was also convicted, in March 2012, in absentia by the Supreme Court for ordering the murder of political rival Prayoon Sitthichoke in 2003. He was given a 25-year prison term.

Judge Thawee confirmed the two sentences are cumulative, not consecutive.

On Friday, the Criminal Court acted on behalf of the Chon Buri Court in asking Somchai to formally confirm that he was the person named in the land corruption case.

The Criminal Court asked whether he was the person wanted under an arrest warrant issued in the Khao Mai Kaew case or not. He admitted to being the same person named in the warrant.

The process took only minutes, which ended with him putting his signature on the paper.

He was fatigued by the appearance and stayed in a detention room for 15 minutes before he was escorted by about 10 armed prison officials back to the Medical Correctional Institute in a van.

Somchai was taken to the Criminal Court in a wheelchair from the institute, where he was detained after being transferred from Bangkok Remand Prison on Wednesday night after reports that his health had deteriorated.

Somchai was accompanied by Winai Phonphaipharn, a kamnan of tambon Samet in Chon Buri's Muang district,  to the court on Friday.

He is expected later go through the same formalities in the murder case conviction.

The former mayor of Saen Suk municipality was arrested at the Lat Krabang motorway tollgate on Wednesday. The car which Somchai travelled in belongs to Mr Winai. He was returning to Chon Buri after receiving medical treatment at Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital in Bangkok.

His family has applied for his transfer to a prison in Chon Buri, citing the inconvence of travelling from Chon Buri to visit him in Bangkok, and because the province was his hometown.

Chief of Bangkok Remand Prison Surasit Chongcharoen said on Friday that the request was made to the prison on Thursday. No decision had yet been made.

Chief of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) Pol Maj Gen Supisarn Bhakdinarinath said the CSD has given investigators 15 days to gather evidence before deciding whether police will take action on those who helped him by illegally giving him shelter while a fugitive from the law.

Somchai's arrest followed several tip-offs to police two months ago that Somchai was seen at his Ban Saen Suk house in Chon Buri. He was thought to have earlier fled to Cambodia.

Related search: Somchai Khunploem, kamnan poh, arrest, criminal court, khao mai kaew

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