Boss case shatters public confidence

Boss case shatters public confidence

If you start to feel a sense of relief that justice seems to be back on track in the shameful hit-and-run case involving Vorayuth Yoovidhya, after both prosecutors and police suddenly put the brakes on their attempts to free him, you may well have to think again.

What is going on has created a suspicion that foul play could still be afoot.

The reputation of police and prosecutors, who are key elements in our justice system, have hit rock bottom over this case that should have been closed a long time ago as it was just a simple fatal accident.

Instead, the case has dragged on for eight years, with charge after charge meeting their statute of limitations, as the public watched on in dismay.

The culprit? He escaped justice and was living a life of luxury abroad.

The reason state agencies failed to catch him? They claimed they "did not know where he is".

Such an excuse makes our authorities look pretty dumb when foreign media outlets have captured footage of him several times.

What we have witnessed shows both police and prosecutors had very high stakes in this case.

Former deputy attorney-general Nate Naksuk, who dropped the remaining charge against Mr Vorayuth of recklessly driving resulting in death, resigned from his position after it was found he might have abused his authority.

Attempts of senior prosecutors to save Mr Nate caused jaws to drop among legal experts as they saw what was presented as "new evidence" -- the sudden change of the Ferrari's speed in investigation reports -- was more than suspicious.

A man who claimed to be a key witness was killed in a motorcycle crash. A probe suggested it was an accident as no substances were found in his body.

Such a conclusion is too easy. Using an accident to conceal a crime is not impossible. Remember the case of the former minister, with a police background, who survived a crash, while his passenger friend was found dead?

It looked every bit like an accident until it was found the dead man's money was tampered with.

Last week, senior police came out and presented in a lengthy press conference what they have discovered as "flaws" in the case that enabled Mr Vorayuth to remain free over the past eight years since the 2012 accident.

About 20 police were found to have been negligent in one way or another in their duty and are to face action by the top boss, the Royal Thai Police (RTP) commander, in a week.

Should I remind you that they are not the first group of officers who have been punished in this notorious case?

The National Anti-Corruption Commission previously found some police intentionally delayed the investigation process. They received light penalties.

But this time, the 20 officers may not be that lucky as the case is still fresh in the public eye.

I cannot help but doubt, however, why only rank and file officers have to show accountability?

Such a conclusion suggests strongly that those incompetent officers handled the case on their own without the RTP chief's supervision.

It's beyond my understanding why any RTP chief, from Pol Gen Priewpan Damapong to the current Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda since 2012, did not urge their subordinates to speed up their work.

If one team could not do a satisfying job, we expect the chief would have replaced it with a new smarter team, so there would have been satisfactory progress.

Had the supervisors done so, the RTP would have maintained its image and reputation.

Has anyone noticed that immigration police were quick to lift a travel ban for Mr Vorayuth, almost right after the OAG dropped the case? Why such a rush, as debate over the legality of the OAG order was still ongoing?

Now back to my observation about that foul play.

Some law experts raised concerns over the instruction of the OAG to police to interrogate more witnesses.

The experts said attempts to get "new evidence" may technically cause a foul, enabling Mr Vorayuth to win in the court, citing a flaw in the investigation process.

Instead, they suggested authorities stick to the old evidence, but take bold action against those who abuse their power.

Our hope is now with the Vicha Mahakhun committee probing the case.

If the panel calls a spade a spade, public trust in justice could be restored.

Ploenpote Atthakor is editorial pages editor, Bangkok Post.

Ploenpote Atthakor

Editorial page Editor

Ploenpote Atthakor is editorial pages editor, Bangkok Post.

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