NAKHON SI THAMMARAT - Police are expected to seek an arrest warrant for a fourth prison warder over the escape of accused murderer Chaowalit Thongduang, alias Sia Paeng Nanod, from a hospital in Nakhon Si Thammarat two weeks ago.
Three warders at the provincial central prison have already been arrested and charged with dereliction of duty. They were also suspended from duty.
The three warders earlier reported to Nakhon Si Thammarat police chief Pol Maj Gen Somchai Suetortrakul. They were released on a 200,00-baht bail each after questioning.
The first two arrested were Warinthorn Thongprachong, 41, and Ekkalak Chaiyakarn, 35. The Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases shortly afterwards approved an arrest warrant for warder Weerachai Nuduang.
Chaowalit, 37, was serving time for attempted murder and faced multiple other criminal charges, including murder.
He fled from Maharat Nakhon Si Thammarat on Oct 22. He had been taken there for dental treatment and was subsequently admitted after collapsing, claiming he had severe leg pains. Despite being restrained to the bed and wearing leg chains, he escaped overnight.
He remains at large, but Pol Maj Gen Somchai said on Tuesday there had been progress in the police investigation.
Police were compiling electronic and other evidence to support an application for an arrest warrant for at least one more suspect, he said.
He declined to disclose further detail, but it was widely believed the arrest warrant was for a fourth prison guard.
Deputy permanent justice secretary Sahakarn Phetnarin, who is acting director-general of the Department of Corrections, said on Tuesday he signed an order to temporarily dismissing the three warders after the arrest warrants were issued. A fact-finding panel had also been set up under civil service regulations.
Pol Col Natthawut Thongthip, acting chief of Muang police, on Tuesday examined a Honda car used by another suspect in the escape, Sutiwat Khunnarong, who was earlier arrested. Sutiwat allegedly drove the car that took Chaowalit away from the hospital in the early morning of Oct 22.
He dropped the prisoner off in the Banthad mountain range in Phatthalung. It is the third vehicle seized from those allegedly involved in aiding the prisoner's escpe.
Chaowalit was sentenced to 20 years and six months in prison last year by Phatthalung Provincial Court for attempted murder in connection with an armed attack on police during an attempted abduction on Sept 2, 2019, in this southern province.
He began serving his sentence at Phatthalung Prison in January 2022 and was transferred to Nakhon Si Thammarat Prison on Aug 7 this year.