Police officers transferred after man dies in custody

Police officers transferred after man dies in custody

Relatives of Witthaya Sopawong, 40, an official at the Tambon Kan Lueang administrative organisation, brings a coffin holding his body to the Nakhon Phanom provincial police on Tuesday to demand an investigation into his death in custody. (Photo supplied by Pattanapong Piasrichai)
Relatives of Witthaya Sopawong, 40, an official at the Tambon Kan Lueang administrative organisation, brings a coffin holding his body to the Nakhon Phanom provincial police on Tuesday to demand an investigation into his death in custody. (Photo supplied by Pattanapong Piasrichai)

Seven police officers in Nakhon Phanom province have been transferred to inactive duties as an investigation takes place into the death of a man in their custody.

Pol Maj Gen Thanachat Rodklongtan, commander of Nakhon Phanom provincial police, said on Tuesday that he had ordered a probe into the case and moved the officers involved to prevent anyone tampering with evidence.

The move came after relatives of Witthaya Sopawong, 40, an official at the Tambon Kan Lueang  administrative organisation, asked for an investigation into how he died after being placed in a cell at Nong Bor police station on July 28. 

The relatives, led by Thanapong Chaikham, 50, chief administrator, and Si Wongsicha, 55, the chairman of the organisation, claimed that Mr Witthaya must have sustained his fatal injuries while being held in police custody and vowed to pursue justice to the end.

Another relative, Worrathep Kamkham, 43, showed police photos of his corpse which revealed he had suffered bruises all over his body. Police forensic scientists in Khon Kaen found that one of Mr Witthaya's vital organs had been badly damaged.   

Mr Witthaya had been arrested after a police raid on his house, in which six teenagers were arrested for using methamphetamine or "ya ba".

Mr Witthaya was himself said to have only been drinking alcohol at the time but for some unknown reason is said to have tried to run away, only to be caught and detained at Nong Bor police station.

The teenagers who were rounded up for taking drugs in his house are reported to have told police that Mr Witthaya started having trouble breathing,turned pale and repeatedly asked police to take him to hospital. 

The transferred police officers have all said they did not test Mr Witthaya for drugs and had not pressed charges against him.


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