Will justice be served?
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Will justice be served?

The arrest of inmate Chaowalit "Sia Paeng Nanod" Thongduang has helped to boost the sagging image of Thai justice and our law enforcers.

The capture of the fugitive in Indonesia after seven months on the lam reminds society that our law enforcers can find those who attempt to flee justice -- when they sincerely try to.

The case sounds on paper like a Hollywood action movie.

The shackled inmate fled while being escorted by corrections officials to receive medical treatment at a state hospital in Nakhon Si Thammarat province in October. Chaowalit, who was jailed for multiple killings, hid in the jungle around Banthad mountain in the deep South for a few weeks and outsmarted heavily armed police in a gunfight.

During this escapade, Chaowalit humiliated the justice system by airing video clips accusing it of treating him unfairly. The government and police tracked him for months and collaborated with Jakarta until he was rounded up this week in Bali.

On Thursday, Justice Minister Pol Col Tawee Sodsong proudly briefed the media that the police and government had worked closely with their Indonesian counterparts for months behind the scenes to recapture the convict.

However, it seems that by this point, society had almost forgotten about "Sia Paeng Nanod's" escape and assumed that he -- like many people in Thailand who flee justice -- would never be caught.

Such pessimism is warranted. The public has got used to reports of rich and influential people successfully running away from Thai justice. Police rarely try to arrest or even find them.

Former PM Thaksin Shinawatra turned himself in last year after more than a decade of self-exile. Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, the Red Bull scion, has been on the run since his Ferrari allegedly struck and killed a Thong Lor police officer on Sept 3, 2012.

Mr Vorayuth reportedly fled the country on April 25, 2017, a few days before he had to answer charges over the 2012 incident. Over the past seven years, the statute of limitations on his various charges has gradually expired. The final one is due to expire in 2030.

In the case of Chaowalit, the government must launch probes into those potentially involved in his escape. He is now being charged by authorities in Indonesia for using a fake passport. The Thai government, which is trying to extradite him, must provide this inmate with sufficient security when he returns home. The last thing we need to see are reports that he "committed suicide" or died in jail.

The government of Srettha Thavisin needs more successful law enforcement cases like this to boost trust in the justice system.

Mr Srettha can pick up where his predecessor, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, left off. Gen Prayut pledged to speed up Mr Vorayuth's case. The investigating team led by former anti-graft commissioner Vicha Mahakun -- who was appointed by Gen Prayut -- implicated 20 people. Some were high-ranking police. Another was an attorney accused of tampering with the judicial process.

On Feb 27, the attorney-general indicted former national police chief Somyot Poompanmoung and seven others, including Chainarong Saengthong-aram and Nate Naksuk, a former deputy attorney general, for their alleged attempts to get Mr Vorayuth off the hook.

Mr Srettha can improve the system to ensure suspects like this stand trial and face real justice.

Editorial

Bangkok Post editorial column

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

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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