Red-shirt organisation submits open letter to acting police chief
Thailand’s acting police chief Thursday denied allegations that police had linked the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship with the so-called “men in black”.
Speaking after a meeting with top UDD officials, national police chief-designate Somyos Pumpanmuang said police had never named any group as being behind the five “men in black” arrested last week. Furthermore, he said, he never asserted they were responsible for the death of then-Col Romklao Thuwatham during the 2010 red-shirt protests.
The four men and one woman arrested and brought to a much-publicized press conference were charged only with illegal possession of military-grade weapons, he said.
UDD leaders Jatuporn Prompan, former UDD chairwoman Tida Thawornseth, her husband Weng Tojirakarn, and a team of lawyers submitted an open letter to Pol Gen Somyos Thursday, asking that investigators strictly work within the law in handling the “men in black” cases.
The letter also requested investigators ensure fairness and transparency in their inquiry and refrain from any human-rights violations to extract confessions.
Pol Gen Somyos said police oppose the idea of coercing confessions with physical abuse or intimidation, so all the suspects would be treated with justice.
Following Pol Gen Somyos’s comments, Mr Jatuporn said he was satisfied with the deputy police chief’s explanation. He stressed that the UDD did not submit its open letter in an effort to protect the five suspects, but simply to clarify that the group was not involved with suspects or even know them.
The UDD complained in the letter that information initially released by police at a their Sept 13 press conference led the public to think that the suspects had caused the death of Col Romklao, who was promoted posthumously to general, and four other soldiers during a clash between the military and red-shirt protesters at the Khok Wua intersection on April 10, 2010.
However, the UDD said, further investigation found that the victims were killed by M67 grenades, not the weapons the “men in black” were charged with possessing.
The press conference, the UDD alleged, was intended to lead the public to believe the political violence in 2010 and 2014 was linked, without giving providing evidence.
As such, the group asked Pol Gen Somyos to turn over all cases involving soldiers and civilians killed in 2010 to the Department of Special Investigation. That inquiry should be carried out quickly and properly in line with the legal procedures that weren’t followed before, the group said.
For example, the UDD wrote, the bodies of soldiers killed in the political violence had not undergone a proper post-mortem examination as required by the Criminal Procedures Code, except for Pvt Narongrit Sala.
Most of the cases concerning the 2010 political violence fall under the responsibility of DSI, but the Royal Thai Police Office is responsible for military-weapons cases.