Lese majeste suspect found hanged

Lese majeste suspect found hanged

Pol Maj Prakrom Warunprapa, one of the three lese majeste suspects, is taken for detention at the Bangkok Military Court on Oct 21. (Photo by Krit Phromsakla Na Sakolnakorn)
Pol Maj Prakrom Warunprapa, one of the three lese majeste suspects, is taken for detention at the Bangkok Military Court on Oct 21. (Photo by Krit Phromsakla Na Sakolnakorn)

Authorities have opened an investigation into the death of Pol Maj Prakrom Warunprapa, a lese majeste suspect arrested earlier this week, after he was found hanged in his cell on Friday night.

The Corrections Department said it received a report at 10pm Friday from the temporary prison at a military facility where Pol Maj Prakrom was being held, saying that he had tried to hang himself with a shirt inside his cell. 

The warder on duty saw what had happened, rushed into the cell and found the prisoner still alive. He attempted to revive the man using a breathing aid and rushed him to the Corrections Department hospital, where he was pronounced dead after being admitted.

There was only one warder on duty at the time.

The department said in a statement that the suspect, being a high-profile person, might have been having problems adjusting to his new surroundings since being detained on Wednesday.

Since Pol Maj Prakrom's death happened while in detention, a post-mortem examination is required under the Criminal Procedures Code and the body must by sent to the Forensics Science Office of the Royal Thai Police.

The Bangkok Remand Prison, which is in charge of the temporary prison inside the 11th Army Circle, had set up a committee to investigate this matter, the statement added.

Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya said he had been briefed on the incident by Corrections Department director-general Withaya Suriyawong. A committee had been set up to investigate, he added.

Pol Maj Prakrom, 39, was arrested this week on lese majeste and related charges along with Suriyan Sujaritpolwong, alias Mor Yong, a well-known fortune teller, and his close aide Jirawong Watthanathewasilp.

Authorities have said that more arrests were possible in connection with the case, in which people were alleged to have sought personal benefits by claiming connections with the royal institution.

Pol Gen Chakthip Chaichinda, the national police chief, said he had ordered investigators led by Pol Gen Srivara Rangsibrahmanakul, an assistant police chief, to wrap up the investigation in two to three weeks.

He said there were two elements to the case — lese majeste and theft — and that the investigation into the former was now about 80% complete.

Police have said the current case has some similarities to that of former CIB chief Pongpat Chayaphan, whose criminal network was brought down late last year, with billions of baht in illegally obtained assets seized. Pol Lt Gen Pongpat is serving a lengthy jail term after pleading guilty to violating the lese majeste law and other charges.

Other offences committed by the Pongpat gang included demanding kickbacks for police transfers, asking for bribes from oil-smuggling networks, operating a gambling den, money-laundering, illegal logging and illegally possessing historic artifacts.

Pol Maj Prakrom was part of the team charged with gathering evidence in the Pongpat case.

Pol Gen Chakthip said that authorities would also continue to freeze the assets of the three suspects in the current case. 

Earlier, investigators found many valuables when they searched the condominium of Pol Maj Prakrom, a former inspector attached to Sub-Division 1 of the Technology Crime Suppression Division. Some of the items belonged to Pol Gen Pongpat. 

The police chief also said that investigators were gathering evidence to seek court approval for more arrests, but details could not be disclosed.

Earlier this month, eight CIB officers were transferred and put on inactive duty. No evidence linking them to lese majeste has been found so far but Pol Lt Gen Thitiraj Nhonghanpitak, the CIB chief, would continue to investigate them, Pol Gen Chakthip said.

All senior officers involved in the investigation plan to meet on Thursday to discuss progress in the case, he added.

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