Cops in crosshairs over 'delayed' sobriety test

Cops in crosshairs over 'delayed' sobriety test

A TV screen capture shows the mangled wreck of a Mitsubishi Pajero and a badly-damaged Bentley that were involved in a crash in Bangkok on Sunday.
A TV screen capture shows the mangled wreck of a Mitsubishi Pajero and a badly-damaged Bentley that were involved in a crash in Bangkok on Sunday.

The police are facing a public backlash due to speculation they deliberately delayed conducting an alcohol test on a Bentley driver involved in a car accident who later tried to flee the scene.

The results, which were made public on Wednesday, showed him to be below the legal limit.

The Police General Hospital report showed that Suthat Siwapiromrat had about 20 milligrammes of alcohol in his blood when the test was carried out after the collision on Sunday night.

Mr Suthat is accused of hitting a new Mitsubishi Pajero on the Chaloem Maha Nakhon expressway. The Bentley hit the Pajero in the middle lane, causing the car to overturn before it was struck by an oncoming vehicle in the right-side lane.

Five passengers were inside the Pajero, including a four-year-old child, in addition to the driver. All six were injured, but there was no loss of life.

Mr Suthat, who was driving the Bentley, exited the vehicle, walked down the expressway and hailed a cab in an apparent bid to flee the scene, according to a report from a team of first responders.

Some of them followed him and demanded the taxi send him to a nearby police station. A bottle of wine was found inside the Bentley.

According to one of the first responders, Mr Suthat appeared intoxicated. However, he refused to take a breathalyser test, claiming he had chest pains due to the airbag inflating at the time of the accident. He agreed to take a blood test instead.

Pol Maj Gen Achayon Kraithong, a police spokesman, said a day after the incident that the man had been taken to the Police General Hospital to have his blood tested.

The police claimed the test happened within an hour of the incident. However, a source, who declined to be named, said the test had not been carried out until at least four hours after the crash.

Netizens have speculated that the police may have been trying to help him clear his name as the driver is a wealthy businessman who also serves as a board member for at least seven companies. He also makes significant financial contributions to a political party.

After Mr Suthat's results were released, also a day behind schedule, experts and people online immediately went on the offensive, calling them into question.

Dr Smith Srisont, president of the Forensic Physician Association of Thailand, posted on his Facebook page explaining that the later the alcohol test is administered, the less reliable it is as the alcohol level decreases by the hour.

According to Dr Werasak Charaschaisri from Srinakharinwirot University, an alcohol test should be carried out within four hours of the suspect imbibing any liquor.

Dr Smith also suggested the police do a back calculation, which involves a forensic toxicologist using the concentration of alcohol in a blood sample to calculate the concentration level some time before the sample was taken.

In response to the public outpouring of concern, Pol Lt Gen Jirasan Kaewsaeng-Ek, deputy commissioner and spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB), said the police have already charged Mr Suthat with reckless driving causing injury to others and their assets, and drunk driving because he refused to be breathalysed.


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