Hospital responds to 'cause of death' row in police fatal torture case

Hospital responds to 'cause of death' row in police fatal torture case

A still image from a video clip shows police officers wrapping a plastic bag over a drug suspect's head.
A still image from a video clip shows police officers wrapping a plastic bag over a drug suspect's head.

A public hospital in Nakhon Sawan province that came under fire over what it said was the cause of death of a drug suspect who was tortured by police on Wednesday issued a statement in its defence.

Sawanpracharak Hospital on Wednesday said on its Facebook page that “possible amphetamine toxicity" was initially listed as the cause of death to allow relatives to apply for a death certificate.

“The dead man, 24, was initially admitted to Prince Paknampo Hospital at 7.20pm on Aug 5 and was pronounced dead at 1.20pm on Aug 6," Sawanpracharak Hospital posted.

Prince Paknampo Hospital’s report claimed that the man ran away and when police gave chase, he fainted and lost consciousness.  

After his death, the body was sent to Sawanprachak Hospital’s forensic unit for a post-mortem examination to detarmine the cause of his death, the statement continued.

The autopsy was performed at 9am on Aug 7 because the hospital had to await a Covid-19 test result first. A urine test found methamphetamine and amphetamine in his body. The initial cause of death listed toxic levels of amphetamine as a possible cause.

The hospital is now waiting for lab test results for blood levels of methamphetamine, and the autopsy will be used to determine the exact result, which will be released next week. 

The document a doctor issued was for relatives to apply for a death certificate, and merely an initial finding, the hospital said, and the conclusion from the complete autopsy report may be similar or different.

The hospital’s statement came after many on social media raised doubts about the stated cause of the suspect’s death.

Jeerapong Thanapat, a 24-year-old drug suspect died at the Muang police station in Nakhon Sawan on Aug 6. He and his wife had been arrested with 100,000 illicit drug pills on a bypass road in the province.

His death drew public attention when a video clip showing a man being suffocated with a plastic bag went viral on Tuesday. The man was later identified as Jeerapong.

A subordinate filed a complaint claiming his supervisor had demanded 2 million baht from the suspect, and when he only agreed to pay half that amount he was suffocated. The supervisor instructed his team to tell others that the man had overdosed, the complaint said. His wife was released after she agreed to remain silent.

The key policeman involved was Pol Col Thitisant Uttanapol, chief of Muang police station in Nakhon Sawan. He was sacked from the police force and faced an arrest warrant along with six other officers.

Activist Srisuwan Janya on Wednesday said the apparent divergence between the clip of the alleged fatal torture and Sawanpracharak Hospital’s document had been widely criticised.

The hospital's listing of possible amphetamine toxicity and overdose as a cause of death contradicted what was seen in the clip, said the activist.

The Association for the Protection of the Protection of the Thai Constitution will ask the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to investigate the doctor who issued the document regarding the cause of the death, said Mr Srisuwan, who served as the secretary-general of the association. 

He will submit a complaint to the NACC on Thursday.

Police searched the luxury house of fugitive Thitisan in Bangkok's Klong Sam Wa district as the search widened for the sacked police colonel.

There was no trace of the wanted man, but police found 13 luxury cars parked in the vast 5-rai compound at Intra housing estate.

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