DSI integrity at stake

DSI integrity at stake

The death of a key suspect in high-profile land encroachment cases in the custody of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has sparked so much suspicion it is jeopardising the integrity of the crime-busting agency.

First, DSI officials rushed to the conclusion that Thawatchai Anukul, a former land offices official in Phuket and Phangnga implicated in illegally issuing land deeds for 22 sites, some of which are national parks, committed suicide just one day after he was arrested.

Deputy DSI chief Songsak Raksaksakun admitted there was no security camera in the room at the DSI headquarters where Thawatchai was detained. This sounds like a flaw in the agency's procedure in dealing with high-profile suspects although Pol Col Songsak defended it saying three officials were assigned to monitor the land scam suspect.

Circumstances around what DSI officials believed to be the suspect's suicide also appear improbable. Pol Col Songsak said DSI officials found that Thawatchai tried to hang himself from a door hinge with socks.

Photos showing the door hinge in question, however, are unlikely to convince anyone that such a small axis, with the width of few a centimetres, could support the theory. It's almost impossible to attach socks to the narrow hinge, let alone to have it secured enough to the pivot to let a man hang himself to near-death as suspected by the DSI official.

The DSI's supposition suffered serious damage after an autopsy revealed the next day by the suspect's brother showed that Thawatchai had died from abdominal haemorrhaging and a ruptured liver from being hit by a blunt object.

Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya at least had the sense to order an urgent investigation into the death after the result of the autopsy, conducted by the Police General Hospital's Institute of Forensic Medicine, conflicted with the DSI's claim.

The DSI set up a panel to look into the death as well but its chief, Paisit Wongmuang, still made an effort to prop up the suicide theory saying the deceased's liver injuries could have been the result of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, which Thawatchai received from the staff at Mongkutwattana General Hospital when he was still alive after DSI officers first found him.

The hospital director, Rienthong Nanna, categorically denied yesterday that performing CPR could have contributed to the suspect's death, neither abdominal haemorrhaging nor the ruptured liver, as the compression is usually conducted in a very different area.

The DSI apparently does not lend weight to the theory that Thawatchai was assassinated to cut ties to other conspirators who may remain at large. The bureau insisted that all the names in land fraud cases linked with the deceased have been clearly identified and evidence against them is solid. Whether the suspect gave testimony would not have affected the investigation, the DSI said.

This argument does nothing to escape the fact that the key suspect in a high-profile case involving hundreds of plots of lands in popular resort provinces died while in the DSI's custody, supposedly under watch. How could this incident be allowed to happen? The DSI must thoroughly review the matter and inform the public of what was amiss in its detention process, and how the agency will prevent future recurrences.

Failure to provide a full account of the former land official's death, backed by solid and credible evidence, will cast a long shadow over the DSI's performance and accountability.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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