'Boss' case the rule not the exception
Sooner rather than later, we will witness two major state agencies pointing the finger at each other over the infamous hit-and-run case involving Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, the Red Bull scion. The two agencies are none other than the Royal Thai Police and the Office of Attorney-General (OAG) which is in hot water for dropping a major charge against the man behind the steering wheel of the Ferrari that, in the wee hours of that fateful day on Sept 3, 2012, killed a police officer.
Since the dropping of the charges hit national headlines late last week, the OAG has managed to remain tight-lipped (it had still said nothing as of press time last night). The only statement was from the office's spokesman who told the media on Thursday he needed more time "to gather for information and confirm [the reports]". Such an admission of ignorance is a typical tactic when tackling tricky questions from the media. I would say such an innocent excuse would be just fine, were the note from his office to the RTP not so old -- the RTP claimed it received the note on June 12. That was more than four weeks ago! Poor guy, he apparently had no idea how such a claim could make him look so bad.
But the OAG should know it can't keep mum for too long. Over the past few days we have seen the RTP pass the buck with a claim it only "followed the OAG charge-dropping instruction", so the hot potato is now in the lap of the prosecutors, although the RTP stopped short of explaining why it lacked the guts to question the OAG's dubious instruction. Now the public is more than eager to hear the other side of the story straight from the horse's mouth.
My wild guess is that when the OAG comes out to face the music, it will either cite a lack of evidence from the initial investigation reports by the RTP, or it might say that new evidence emerged that invalidated the police's findings, such as Mr Vorayuth not driving his Ferrari as fast as alleged. In other words, the police reports are no longer valid to maintain a charge of "driving recklessly causing a death" against the wealthy heir.
Although many have referred to the OAG's decision as "shocking", I beg to disagree. What would really have been a shock was if the OAG and RTP had pursued Mr Vorayuth to the bitter end, tracking him down, extraditing him, handcuffing him and throwing him behind bars like any other criminal. Lest we forget, the authorities have dragged their feet for eight years, letting charge after charge expire. It would have been odd if they were to finally, seriously try to apprehend Boss just now.
We should not forget either that while the foreign media (credit to them!) spotted Mr Boss on several occasions, the state authorities claimed not to have the slightest idea where he was or has been for nearly a decade. The warrants, now revoked, never reached the man.
Such sluggishness and clumsiness by the RTP or OAG is a far cry from when they deal with less privileged people, be it the "mushroom couple", a trash dealer who sold old, probably damaged, CDs on a flyover or local villagers slapped with charges of forest encroachment even though their families lived in the areas long before they were designated as national forest. I could go on and on.
It's highly likely the OAG will talk to the public later this week to convince us why it wholeheartedly believes this fast and furious man should be let off the hook. But don't expect too much. Local media reported yesterday that a senior prosecutor responsible for the high-profile case "is still on a field trip" upcountry, and, while he is travelling, he "has followed up the case from the media".
In reality, however, we need not wait for the office's explanation to know what's behind those decisions. We should know if we look back into a number of closed cases which only reaffirm how unfair our system is.
Remember the case of a girl from a privileged family who killed nine on the expressway in 2010? Has she ever stepped a foot in jail? No. What about another wealthy man who crashed his Mercedes into a car, killing two young decent people? Yes, he was found guilty, but jail was not the place for him. Oh, and about that construction tycoon who loves hunting...
Going back to the Vorayuth case, the OAG will bombard us with technical details to make us believe there is no foul play, and this is how the system works. In doing so, the RTP will inevitably lose face. But again, we have seen that before.
I need not tell you why there are such blatant double standards. If I do, I'll only end up sounding like a broken record -- one which the state authorities refuse to listen to.
But, really, how long such a system can continue?
Ploenpote Atthakor is editorial pages editor, Bangkok Post.
Former editorial page Editor
Ploenpote Atthakor is former editorial pages editor, Bangkok Post.