Red faces as escapee's videos go viral

Red faces as escapee's videos go viral

Justice Minister launches probe as authorities concede Chaowalit's claims may hold water

Chaowalit: Jail for attempted murder
Chaowalit: Jail for attempted murder

Justice authorities are in the hot seat following the dramatic escape of inmate Chaowalit Thongduang, known as "Sia Pang Na Node", and his evasion of the law in the ensuing month-long manhunt.

In a series of anonymous videos posted online, he is now pointing the finger at the justice system, alleging its malpractices resulted in him being put behind bars.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Saturday urged Chaowalit to surrender and enter the legal process, saying his continued flight would only result in more trouble.

Mr Srettha's remark came after the release of two video clips, in which a man believed to be Chaowalit claimed that he made his escape because he was a victim of injustice and his petitions to the Justice Ministry had gone unanswered.

In the first clip which circulated on social media on Friday evening, Chaowalit said he was the only person in his case who was denied bail and sentenced to prison while the others including state officials had not been indicted.

He also claimed that authorities tried to frame him in a drug case despite his never having been involved in narcotics.

In the second clip which circulated on Saturday, Chaowalit admitted to being involved in a robbery, but denied having intimidated any prosecutors. He said he suspected the claim was made to justify any attempt to execute him during the manhunt.

"I want to see legal action taken against the prosecutor and those I mentioned. If action is taken against them, I'll surrender.

"If not, I'll be dead if I surrender. If there is no justice, I won't surrender," he said.

After the clips went viral, the Attorney-General ordered an investigation into Chaowalit's claims, said Prayuth Phetchakhun, spokesman of the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG).

Citing information from the Office of Public Prosecution Region 9, he said a prosecutor was implicated in a case which took place in 2020 as claimed by Chaowalit.

In this case, several suspects including a prosecutor escaped being indicted while Chaowalit was tried, found guilty and jailed, leading to his daring escape, said Mr Prayuth.

He said the AG also instructed the Region 9 office to forward the case file to the OAG's Academic Office for examination, adding the public would be informed of progress.

National police chief Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol on Saturday ordered police to examine the clips and look into claims made by Chaowalit about alleged wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, a police source said the person in the clips was confirmed to be Chaowalit, albeit now clean shaven and having lost around 10kg in weight.

The clips were sent to a local reporter and the search team believed the inmate was still hiding in the southern provinces.

Justice Minister Pol Col Tawee Sodsong said he ordered justice permanent secretary Pongsawat Neelayothin to launch an inquiry into the inmate's claims.

"No one in the justice system wants to catch him dead. We're prepared to look into his claims," he said.

The Corrections Department posted on Facebook that it is still tracking down Chaowalit and asked those who have information to contact authorities.

Chaowalit, 37, who was serving time for attempted murder, took flight into the Banthad mountain range, which stretches across Phatthalung, Trang, and Satun provinces, after escaping from Maharat Nakhon Si Thammarat Hospital on Oct 22, where he had been taken for dental treatment.

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