Too hasty on Akeyuth case

Too hasty on Akeyuth case

The murder of high-profile investor and Thaksin regime opponent Akeyuth Anchanbutr has come as a shock to the public, especially his supporters, who are familiar with his whistle-blowing exposes of scandals implicating the Shinawatra clan on his Thai Insider website, including the Four Seasons Hotel incident.

But what was more surprising was the hasty conclusion by Deputy Prime Minster Chalerm Yubamrung that the business tycoon was most likely killed by his own driver, 25-year old Santiphap Pengduang, and that the motive was robbery. He also ruled out a political motive or the suggestion the victim might have plotted his own disappearance for political reasons.

Above all, Mr Chalerm made the assumption even before police had obtained any credible evidence.

Akeyuth was reported missing on June 9 when his family and lawyer, Suwat Apaipakdi, lodged a complaint with Crime Suppression Division police.

It came three days after he was last seen on June 6 when he was supposed to meet his friends at Krua Kratae restaurant.

But he did not show up. Mr Suwat said Mr Akeyuth also missed an appointment to play golf with his friends on June 7.

According to the lawyer, Mr Akeyuth called his elder sister, Supaporn Waenlor, on June 7 asking for his cheque book to be delivered to him at Suvarnabhumi airport.

The cheque book was brought by the company's driver to the airport and was received by Mr Santiphap instead of Mr Akeyuth, who didn't show up.

Mr Santiphap was arrested in Samut Sakhon by police on Monday _ one day after a complaint was lodged with the CSD by the victim's family. The next morning he was presented at a press conference at the Metropolitan Police Headquarters before an army of reporters and photographers. That was when the suspect made his confession and spilled the beans.

Metropolitan police commissioner Pol Lt Gen Kamronwit Toopkrachang said he did not completely believe Mr Santiphap's story and asked for a few more days for police to gather evidence.

But for the sake of looking professional, the commissioner should have enough credible evidence in his hands before presenting the suspect to the media in the full glare of the public.

Hence, it should hardly be surprising if some people are wondering if Mr Santiphap is not just a scapegoat and that the press conference was staged just for publicity purposes. Even if Mr Santiphap is a genuine suspect, his confession might have been made under duress or while being tortured.

The use of torture by law enforcement officers to extract confessions from suspects has been well documented by the Asian Human Rights Commission.

A rare breed of staunch Thaksin opponent who was well known for his exposure of dubious activities by Thaksin Shinawatra and other members of his clan, Mr Akeyuth had as many supporters as enemies.

Hence, it is quite feasible that political foul play might be a motive for his disappearance and murder even though the robbery motive given by the suspect is another possible explanation.

Because of the victim's political high profile and status, it is imperative for the police to find out the truth of the case and to remove any doubt that he was a victim of political foul play.

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