Red faces in fugitive saga
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Red faces in fugitive saga

A villain wanted by state authorities, runaway inmate Chaowalit Thongduang, who remains at large more than a month after escaping from a southern hospital, projects himself as a "victim of injustice."

Chaowalit, alias Sia Paeng Na Node, was serving time for several criminal convictions, including attempted murder.

Despite his leg chains, he broke free from Nakhon Si Thammarat Hospital on Oct 22 while receiving dental treatment. A group of wardens and three other people were arrested for helping him flee, while a senior policeman was rumoured also to have had a hand in the escape.

The public has followed the escape drama and manhunt with the intensity of an audience watching a crime suspense movie.

Sia Paeng was cornered at a hideout deep in a forest in Trang province on Nov 8, but he, together with armed bodyguards, managed to flee after exchanging fire with police.

Teams of police have searched the four provinces of Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phatthalung, Satun and Trang. The manhunt involved 400 officers and triggered complaints from villagers.

The Oct 22 escape was a slap in the face for state officials, yet his appearance in video clips released since, calling for justice, is an embarrassment.

In the clips, which went viral recently, Chaowalit alleged he was lured into helping a drug dealer who was in police custody in 2019.

The operation, which saw him trading fire with police, was unsuccessful. The Office of the Attorney General initially dropped charges against him but later reversed the decision.

He was eventually given a 20-year prison term, while the drug dealer was given 14 years. Chaowalit claimed state officials were involved in the case, while he was the only person denied bail and sentenced to imprisonment. He claimed he was framed in a drug case he knew nothing about.

In the clip, he said he wanted those state officials involved to face legal action. If so, he would surrender. He believed he would be killed otherwise, as the officials would want to silence him.

"If there is no justice, I won't surrender," he said. The 37-year-old escapee shrugged off calls by the prime minister and police chief to give himself up and guarantee his safety.

Chaowalit's allegations put the agencies involved under pressure. Each has rushed to launch probes into the officers mentioned in the clips. It appears that the public is giving weight to the escapee's story.

Yet this is not a surprise given that both the Royal Thai Police (RTP) and the Office of the Attorney General have had their share of scandals. The former, in particular, makes headlines for the wrong reasons every year. After a scandal, an investigation follows, resulting in transfers to an "inactive post," and only a few of the suspects ever get punished.

The public is still curious about the case of the mafia kamnan in Nakhon Pathom province, in which a policeman was gunned down and another committed suicide. On top of that scandal is the notorious hit-and-run case involving Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, the Red Bull scion, from 2012. Charge after charge has expired, but the long arm of the law has never reached him. Police chief Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol has a tough job ahead in cleaning up the RTP. If trust is still an issue, he may find the public more inclined to take the fugitive's side rather than that of the police.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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