Blood is thicker than water
A rookie investigator goes full circle after arresting the man who murdered his father,
The year 1998 was annus horribilis for a family in Chumphon province. On the night of Dec 5, Prasit Sae-ue, the sole breadwinner of the family was killed while his wife was pregnant with their son.
Life goes on. The son, who never saw his father's face, grew up to become a police investigator who caught the man who killed his father.
The son is Police Lance Corporal Atsadawut Makpradit, a young rookie who only just graduated from police cadet school in February this year.
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L/Cpl Atsadawut's reputation as a famous rookie at the Royal Thai Police is reflected by the amount of praise and media reports he received for his role in solving a murder case in a small village in Chumphon's Tha Sae district.
It was not a high profile case and rarely drew the attention of other officers. In fact, the police left the case cold, and its 20-year-statute of limitations was due to expire next month on Dec 2.
Nonetheless, the case became famous because one of two victims in the murder case is the father of a police investigator.
The young police investigator, now attached with the Provincial Police Region 8, told the Bangkok Post he was glad to be a part of the team that arrested the killer, but denied he did it for revenge.
"I just want to apply what I've learned to a case that's quite close to me," L/Cpl Atsadawut said.
He admitted he did not know much about his father, as his mother has been avoiding the topic of the gruesome murder.
"I kept asking my mother over and over again.. where is my father?" he said.
His mother later told him about the murder, and her late husband's dream of seeing his son becoming a policeman.
On Dec 5, almost two decades ago, Prasit and another victim named Chani Tongyit were killed when they were driving a truck to carry rubber wood in Surat Thani's Phunphin district.
Their 10-wheeler was robbed by three thieves, who forced them into a pickup truck. The victims' heads were covered with plastic bags before they were slain.
The corpses were then dumped near a pond at Ban Tha Taphao in Chumphon's Tha Sae district.
Bunyarit Khrutlaong, 54, was arrested by the Crime Suppression Division after 19 years and 11 months on the run.
Police managed to arrest two out of three suspects, but the other suspect, identified as Bunyarit Khrutlaong, remained at large for 20 years until he was arrested on Nov 5 this year.
The 54-year-old was nabbed by a team led by Pol Col Phumin Phumphanmuang of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD).
Pol Col Phumin, a superintendent of the CSD's subdivision 5 that oversees the southern provinces, and L/Cpl Atsadawut planned the arrest together.
But it was L/Cpl Atsadawut who had given the investigators a new clue about the suspect.
"I started by asking older police officers and relatives about the case," L/Cpl Atsadawut said.
He admitted the manhunt for Mr Bunyarit was not easy because this was not a high-profile criminal case.
The rookie remained persistent, following breadcrumbs despite being warned that the suspect was a close aide of a local influential figure.
He continued to gather more information on the location of the suspect's hideout and eventually found the man had fled to Malaysia and planned to return to Thailand when the case's statute of limitations expired on Dec 2.
To ensure the arrest of Mr Bunyarit by Dec 2, the young lance corporal went to the CSD for help.
That led him to meet veteran police investigator Pol Col Phumin, who is known for his skill in tracking down fugitives.
The team eventually learned that Mr Bunyarit was living in a village in Chumphon's tambon Song Phi Nong, where he was arrested.
During interrogation, Mr Bunyarit acknowledged there was an arrest warrant for him issued by the Surat Thani Provincial Court, but denied any involvement in the murders and said he would only testify in court.
Investigators say that Mr Bunyarit decided to keep a low profile and never renewed his identity card.
While the arrest was made possible by the work of CSD investigators, L/Cpl Atsadawut admitted that luck also played a role.
"We were lucky because the suspect had just returned to the province," he said
Pol Col Phumin praised the rookie's skills, especially his diligent checks on cold cases.
However, it was "not strange" to see an investigation into a wrongdoing that occurred to a family of an investigator, said Pol Col Phumin.
He once worked on a case in which a suspect killed a brother of a colleague.
"The victim was also my uncle," Pol Col Phumin said.