Eleven years ago this week, the nation was shocked by the hit-and-run case involving Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, the scion of the renowned family behind the Red Bull empire. The Yoovidhyas are known to be among the richest families in Thailand, owing their fortune to the sugary energy drink Krating Daeng, or Red Bull.
Mr Vorayuth crashed his Ferrari into a motorcycle driven by Pol Snr Sgt Maj Wichian Klanprasert in the early hours of Sept 3, 2012, in Bangkok's Thong Lor neighbourhood. Instead of stopping to help the victim, Mr Vorayuth, then in his early 20s, drove off, dragging the victim's body around 200 metres from the scene of the accident, without informing the authorities.
Following a protracted investigation, the Red Bull heir was hit with three charges, but the long arm of the law has not been able to bring him to justice. After repeatedly bailing on orders to appear in court, he ultimately fled the country in 2017.
Meanwhile, the charges against him continue to drop like flies as their statutes of limitations expire. The last charge against him, of reckless driving causing death, will expire in 2027.
Since 2012, the infamous hit-and-run case has made the headlines every now and then. But this week, as the 11th anniversary of the crash nears, the case resurfaced once more after Pol Gen Permpoon Chidchob was appointed the new education minister.
Pol Gen Permpoon is known to have had a role in the efforts to whitewash the privileged fugitive. He officially endorsed a decision by Nate Naksuk -- then a high-ranking executive with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) -- to drop all the charges against Mr Vorayuth.
The appointment will stain the image of the new government under Srettha Thavisin. After breaking its coalition pledge with the Move Forward Party to join hands with junta-linked political parties -- namely the Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation parties, the last thing voters want to see is the name of any officials involved in this infamous case in the incoming cabinet.
It needs to be mentioned that the new education minister was investigated along with almost a dozen police officers by a committee under Vicha Mahakun, who was looking at the systematic abuse of state authority in favour of the Yoovidhya scion, which allowed him to remain free from the beginning. The Royal Thai Police, however, found him "not guilty" of the charges.
The new government cannot sit idly by and let Mr Vorayuth's hit-and-run case simply expire. It is hoped that the new Justice Minister, Pol Col Thawee Sodsong, will pay more attention to this miscarriage of justice.
Lest people forget, in July 2020, Pol Col Thawee -- then an MP on the opposition benches -- criticised the decision to drop some of the charges against Mr Vorayuth, suggesting the involvement of officials and police. Now that he has a chance to rectify the injustice, how will he do it?
Perhaps, the government could make a start by publishing the report by the Vicha Mahakun panel. Earlier last month, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) wrapped up its investigation into officials and others involved in helping Mr Vorayuth escape justice. Suspects include high-ranking police officials, members of the now-defunct National Legislative Assembly, police investigators, state prosecutors and lawyers.
There is absolutely no reason at all for the government to remain idle. All evidence points towards the problem. The only thing missing is the political courage to resolve this saga.