Arrested former lands official found dead in DSI cell

Arrested former lands official found dead in DSI cell

A retired Phuket lands official accused of illegally issuing title documents to over 1,000 blocks of land was found dead in his cell at the Department of Special Investigation on Chaeng Watthana Road, Bangkok, only hours after his arrest on Monday. (Kitja Apichonrojarek)
A retired Phuket lands official accused of illegally issuing title documents to over 1,000 blocks of land was found dead in his cell at the Department of Special Investigation on Chaeng Watthana Road, Bangkok, only hours after his arrest on Monday. (Kitja Apichonrojarek)

A former lands official was found dead, hanging in a cell at the Department of Special Investigation on Monday night, not long after being arrested for allegedly issuing hundreds of illegal land rights documents for large areas of land in provinces fronting the Andaman Sea.

DSI director-general Paisit Wongmuang said on Tuesday that Thawatchai Anukul, 66, a retired lands official in Phangnga province, committed suicide in his cell on the sixth floor of the DSI head office at the government complex in Chaeng Wattana.

It was reported he used his socks to hang himself from a cell door hinge. He was found about 2am Tuesday and rushed to Mongkutwattana Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 4.45am.

Thawatchai had been arrested on a warrant in Bang Yai district of Nonthaburi province on Monday and would have been taken to court this morning, when the DSI would have requested he be remanded in custody for a further 12 days. 

"Apart from being wanted on the DSI arrest warrant, he also faced arrest warrants issued by courts in other cases," Pol Col Paisit said. "The Anti-Money Laundering Office is checking his assets and the National Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating him."

His death ended all criminal action against the former lands official, but legal action relating to his alleged money-laundering would continue, Pol Col Paisit said.

Thawatchai was a native of Thalang district, Phuket. He was arrested in front of a barber shop in tambon Sao Thong Hin of Bang Yai district, Nonthaburi.

He was accused of having illegally issued land rights documents for more than 1,000 blocks of land in Phangnga, Phuket and Surat Thani provinces, the DSI chief said.

They included a document for 500 rai overlapping the Khao Lampi-Hat Thai Mueang National Park in Phangnga. The price of the land was officially estimated at 10.5 billion baht, and it belonged to a rich person well-known in Phangnga and Phuket, Pol Col Paisit said.

He was also accused of aiding encroachment of Sirinat National Park in Phuket.

Thawatchai had allegedly issued a rights document to a private company for 362 rai of land in tambon Rassada of Muang Phuket district.


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