City police insist existing evidence does not support pressing charges of premeditated murder against seven suspects in the killing of a disabled bread delivery man in Lat Phrao area.
Metropolitan Police Bureau acting commander Pol Lt Gen Sanit Mahathavorn said police will press murder charges against the suspects only if there is sufficient evidence, not based on social pressure.
The city police acting chief made the comment after Anantachai Chaidet, the lawyer representing the family of Somkiat Sichan, 36, who was killed in a deadly brawl with a group of teenagers on May 1, together with his family members, appeared Monday at the Royal Thai Police headquarters. They submitted a letter to national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda asking for justice for the victim's family.
The lawyer and the victim's family demanded Pol Gen Chakthip pressure Chokechai investigators to press charges of premeditated murder (first degree murder) against the suspects.
They also asked police to handle the case fairly as four of the suspects are the sons of police officers.
The lawyer said he submitted footage from surveillance cameras at the scene as evidence for the proposed charges.
However, Pol Lt Gen Sanit said the seven suspects, including the latest suspect who is the girlfriend of one of the other suspects in the case, were now being charged with homicide (second degree murder).
While he said the evidence at hand is not enough for pressing charges of premeditated murder, Pol Lt Gen Sanit assured investigations are still ongoing and if the evidence allows it, police will charge the suspects more severely.
Pol Lt Gen Sanit said a premeditated murder charge needs clear evidence that a suspect had prepared for a murder in advance. He said in this particular case, although some suspects made phone calls to get more help while the brawl was taking place and the newcomers came with weapons, there needs to be evidence that proves they had planned to kill the victim before arriving at the scene.
"But all the suspects insisted they came to the scene to help their friends in the brawl and carried weapons to protect themselves, not to kill the disabled man," said Pol Lt Gen Sanit.
He said premeditated murder is the most serious charge and comes with the death penalty while homicide, which has execution as the maximum penalty, can have lighter sentences ranging from 15 years in prison to life imprisonment.
If an investigator files an exaggerated charge against a suspect without solid grounds, the officer would also face charges for causing others to be unfairly punished, he added.
The pressure on the police came after a group of people launched a campaign on the weekend for police to file more serious charges against the suspects.
The campaign, which was conducted online, has received strong support from netizens. Most believe one reason behind police's hesitation to press more severe charges is that four of the suspects are police officers' sons.
On May 1, Somkiat, was stabbed to death in a brawl with six young men on Soi Chokechai Si in the Lat Phrao area. One of the suspects was also injured in the brawl.