Two wardens sought over prisoner's escape

Two wardens sought over prisoner's escape

Sources say fetters and handcuffs used on convict had been tampered with

Sutiwas Khunnarong, accused of driving the getaway car that took prisoner Chaowalit Thongduang from Maharat Nakhon Si Thammarat Hospital, is taken to the hospital and other locations on Thursday to show how the escape plan unfolded. (Photo: Nujaree Rakrun)
Sutiwas Khunnarong, accused of driving the getaway car that took prisoner Chaowalit Thongduang from Maharat Nakhon Si Thammarat Hospital, is taken to the hospital and other locations on Thursday to show how the escape plan unfolded. (Photo: Nujaree Rakrun)

NAKHON SI THAMMARAT: Two prison wardens are facing arrest for dereliction of duty in connection with the escape of a 37-year-old prisoner from a hospital in this southern province almost two weeks ago.

The Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases approved arrest warrants sought by the Muang district police station in Nakhon Si Thammarat for Warinthorn Thongprachong, 41, and Ekkalak Chaiyakarn, 35, said a police source.

Chaowalit Thongduang, who was serving time for attempted murder, fled from a hospital in Nakhon Si Thammarat on Oct 22. The two wardens had escorted him there, said Pol Lt Col Charu Phetpan, deputy investigation chief at the Muang police station.

Chaowalit, 37, alias “Sia Paeng Na Nod”, had been taken to the hospital for dental treatment and was subsequently admitted after collapsing, citing severe leg pain. He remains at large.

A source said the two wardens, who had been transferred to the Department of Corrections, were aware of the arrest warrants and were expected to be handed over to police in one or two days.

Another prison warden who declined to be named claimed that the two men were likely to be made scapegoats while the real culprit who masterminded the escape would not be caught.

Serving arrest warrants was tantamount to forcing the two accused wardens to be dismissed from government service, he added.

According to the warden, the fetters and handcuffs that were to be used on Chaowalit were changed during the daytime before the two wardens began their night shift.

“Another warden who allegedly changed the fetters for Chaowalit and the alleged mastermind who ordered the pair to perform their duty at night have not been affected,” said the warden.

Earlier, Sutiwas Khunnarong, 28, an aide to Chaowalit, was arrested in Ratchaburi for abetting the escape of the prisoner and driving the getaway car. He dropped Chaowalit off in a mountainous area of Phatthalung and the prisoner has not been seen since.

On Thursday, police took him to Maharat Nakhon Si Thammarat Hospital to show how he helped the prisoner escape.

Shortly before the re-enactment took place, a senior prison official arrived at the Muang police station to hand over fetters and handcuffs to police as evidence. He told the officers that Chaowalit and his associates had tried to cut the fetters at night between Oct 20 and 21, but not successfully.

One prison warden later changed the fetters during the daytime and this enabled the prisoner to escape the following day, said a source.

All seven suspects wanted for aiding Chaowalit’s escape have been arrested.

Chaowalit was sentenced to 20 years and six months in jail last year by the Phatthalung Provincial Court for attempted murder in connection with an armed attack on police during an attempted abduction on Sept 2, 2019, in Phatthalung.

He began serving his sentence at Phatthalung Prison in January 2022 and was transferred to Nakhon Si Thammarat Prison on Aug 7 this year. He also faces multiple other criminal charges.

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