Extrajudicial killings of alleged drug dealers in Thailand

Asian Legal Resource Centre

Prime Minister of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra announced on 28 January 2003 that a ‘war on drugs’ would begin on February 1, and continue until April 30, at which time the country would be drug-free. As a result, over 2000 persons lost their lives during this three-month period, murdered on the streets, in houses, restaurants and shops around the country. Others who escaped death have been forced into hiding or had their reputations and livelihoods ruined. Below is a selection of cases compiled from complaints received and investigated by non-governmental organizations, the media and other sources.

Targeted killings by “unidentified gunmen”

The war on drugs got off to its promised start on the night of January 31-February 1, with “unidentified gunmen” killing Boonchuay and Yupin Unthong as they were about to return home with their son, eight-year-old Jirasak, in the streets of Ban Rai, Damnoen Saduak district, Ratchaburi. The family had spent the evening playing fairground games at a local temple, and had all climbed aboard a motorcycle to go home. They had not gone more than 200 metres when two men dressed in black wearing ski masks pulled up alongside on another motorcycle. The man on the back shot Jirasak’s mother, and Boonchuay unsuccessfully tried to speed away. The motorcycle crashed onto the pavement, and bleeding on the road Boonchuay shouted to his son to run. Jirasak escaped over a fence and hiding, watched as the man shot his father in the head. Boonchay had been released from prison three months ago, where he had served 18 months for drug offenses, and Yupin was also on a drug blacklist. Relatives said that neither had been involved in drugs since Boonchuay’s release from jail. Boonchay’s brother Samruay Thinrung said that justice should have been allowed to take its course. “Being tried in court and executed in one day would have been more acceptable than having my brother shot dead in the street,” he said. Phanom, his uncle, added that whatever their offences, “Killing people in the streets is just too cruel.”

Many killings occurred shortly after the victims had been called to a police station. Suwit Baison, a 23 year-old assistant television cameraman kneeled down before Prime Minister Thaksin as he arrived at the Agriculture Ministry for a meeting on February 27. Suwit told Thaksin that his mother, Kwanla Puangchomphum, and stepfather, Thanom Montak, were shot dead on February 26 shortly after they left the Tha Chaliang police station in Nong Phai district, Phetchabun. The couple had gone to pay a 5000 Baht (US5) fine for marijuana possession. His parents were shot while riding a motorcycle home, about five kilometers from the police station. Witnesses said the gunman was driving a white sedan, which according to Suwit was spotted at the police station car park. With tears rolling down his cheeks and his voice trembling, Suwit handed a petition to Thaksin, asking for justice. He said local police had dismissed the shootings as “drugs-related” and made no effort to conduct a proper investigation. The Prime Minister promised to look into the matter. An hour later, Crime Suppression Division commander Major General Surasit Sangkapong talked to Suwit for about 10 minutes before they left together for further questioning at Surasit’s office. Surasit said he would assign one of his deputies to investigate the shooting. According to Nong Phai district police superintendent, Colonel Phisan Iamla-or, however, Suwit’s parents were on a list of people who allegedly possessed drugs that had been prepared at a gathering of villagers. He said the couple had been arrested separately on four occasions with marijuana and methamphetamine pills. However, Suwit claims that his stepfather was arrested during the month on a charge of marijuana use, at which time the police tried to make him admit to methamphetamine possession. He also alleged that his mother had been falsely charged with possession last year, but had been told by police that for 50,000 Baht (US,200) they would reduce the charge. After the couple consulted a lawyer, the police contacted them and told them to report to the station.

A day after Kwanla and Thanom’s deaths, another person in the neighbourhood was murdered in a similar manner, again a ‘reformed’ drug user turned victim of the ‘war’. Boonyung Tangtong, a 40 year-old father, had reported to Na Chaliang police station, Petchabun, as ordered. Shortly after, nine armed men came to his house, took him into his bedroom and shot him in the head and chest. His murder took place in full view of his wife and children, including a two-year-old daughter, and two other relatives, who were held captive with guns against their heads. Boonyung had turned himself in to the police about a year ago, and twice took part in the government’s reform program. Adirek, his 16-year-old son, is positive that the police murdered his father. “They all were wearing name and rank tags around their necks, but they didn’t look familiar. They could have come from other places,” he said after the shooting. Ten persons in the area were reportedly killed after reporting to police during the first weeks of the campaign.

Likewise, on February 17, three days before eight “unidentified gunmen” entered her house in Ban Laem district, Petchaburi, and shot her eight times, Somjit Kuanyuyen, a 42 year-old mother, reported to the police after her name appeared on a blacklist. According to her nephew, ‘Sak’ she went to the Ban Laem police station with her husband and was told to go into a side room and sign a paper. However, Somjit was illiterate and did not know what it was. Terrified, she marked the document. The police informed her that after signing the paper she would be safe and could come to see them any time if anything suspicious happened. On February 20 her 7-months pregnant daughter saw a pickup truck with dark tinted windows and no license plates stop at the front of the house. It contained four men with crew cut hairstyles, wearing sunglasses and black clothes. Two of the men approached the grocery stand at the house ostensibly to buy some beer. One nodded his head and the other fired at Somjit, hitting her in the arm while her seven-year-old granddaughter clung to her leg. There were three other persons in the house, including Somjit’s daughter. They watched as Somjit fell after the first shot and the man fired another six shots into her back, killing her. After the men left, although the house is very close to a main road and only 20 metres from a police box, the police took a long time to arrive and investigate. They did not set up checkpoints or take any other steps to arrest the murderers. They didn’t collect the bullet shells, which were instead taken up by the family. They asked Somjit’s daughter and cousin if her family was involved in drugs, but asked no questions about the murder itself. When the daughter made it clear that her mother had had nothing to do with drugs, the police warned her, “Don’t speak too much”. For his part, Ban Laem police commander, Colonel Taveesak na Songkhla said that Somjit’s name was on a list submitted to them by the Drug Suppression Office in Bangkok. He claims his officers searched the scene, but found no bullet casings. “If the relatives have found bullet casings, they should give them to the police instead of keeping them and saying that we are ignoring the case,” he said. Colonel Taveesak also mentioned that although the police were working on solving such murder cases, “investigation cannot be totally efficient because we need to use officers to arrest those blacklisted in order to fulfill the government quota.” The family tried to complain to their local Member of Parliament, but could not find him. They then went to the provincial office of the Law Society of Thailand and were advised to tell the media.

The police and government preferred to characterize most killings by “unidentified gunmen” as “bad guys killing bad guys” or “killing to cut the link”(kar tad torn). In one particularly brutal case described in these terms, locals allege that uniformed police in fact tortured and murdered four ethnic Hmong men on February 12. The four men, 45-year-old Jai-jue Sae Thao, his younger brother Somchai Sae Thao, their 59-year-old cousin, Boonma Sae Thao, and Seng Sae Thao, the 59-year-old head of Doi Nam Pieng Nam Din village, Bann Neun sub district, Lom Kao district, Petchabun, were travelling by pickup truck after attending the Lom Kao district office. According to Jai-jue’s son, Sornchai Sae Thao, his father had been charged with carrying an illegal shotgun, and on February 11 had received an order to go to court. Jai-jue was said to be getting a transfer of ownership on the gun, which he kept with him for protection when alone on his farm at nights. Jai-jue contacted the village head to go with him as guarantor in his case, and he found that the head had also received a notice, that his name was on a list and he had to report to the police. That notice was issued by the district office of Lom Kao, and the person who brought the charge sheet to Jai-jue was the same as the person who gave the notice to the village head. The following morning, both of them went to the district office in the village head’s pickup truck. Jai-jue also asked his brother Somchai to go with him. Boonma was getting a lift to buy medicine for his 18-month-old daughter, who was suffering from acute diarrhoea. According to Sornchai, a villager who had met his father in court said that when his father appeared there the judge knew nothing about the charge and said he had not been the one to call him to the court. Seng Sae also did not report to the district office because the officer who should receive the report was out, and so they then began returning home. Around midday, about fourteen kilometres short of their village, they were all shot dead. According to Sornchai, one villager saw the incident and at first insisted that police in uniform shot them. However, that villager was called to Lom Kao police station for a talk, and after that became very quiet and apprehensive. Several villagers also witnessed at least one police motorcycle in the area at the time of the killings. A Doi Nam villager walking nearby was the first to see the bodies themselves. That person went to tell the men’s relatives, and all of them went to the place and found that the pickup was gone but the four dead bodies were pulled together at the side of the road. All four had been shot in the head, and in addition all of them showed signs of brutal torture:

– Jai-jue had a broken chin and bruised eyes;
– Boonma’s body was burnt on its left side, and his face had been stabbed with a sharp object, leaving a triangular shape; the back of his head was also reportedly severely damaged;
– Somchai had a broken neck and collarbone;
– Seng Sae appeared to have beaten.

According to Boonma’s son, Tu Sae Thao, his father’s wallet with 2000 Baht (US) and his watch were missing. According to Sornchai, the charge sheet against his father also was missing. The police on the scene claimed that they knew nothing of what had happened and that the pickup truck also was missing when they arrived. However, one police officer reportedly walked behind the village head’s son and told him discreetly that it was not police from Lom Kao but from neighbouring Lom Sak who had killed the men. Although the bodies were sent to Somdej Yuppharaj hospital for autopsy, no result has been sent to relatives and they don’t dare ask for it. The hospital also has not given any official paper to acknowledge the deaths, except one for Boonma because his relatives went to the district office to demand it. The paper says only that Boonma was shot and killed. Meanwhile, the doctor who conducted the autopsy is reported to have handed the bullets over to the police, but it is now not known where the bullets have been sent. According to the source of that information, however, the village head was killed with a .38 calibre weapon (the size of police-issue pistols).

While the target of the killing seems to have been Seng Sae, the family members of the three other men insist that it was impossible for them to be drug sellers, as they never even smoked cigarettes or drank alcohol. However, when the case was reported in the media the police informed newspapers that all four were “suspected drug dealers” When contacted further on this point, the investigating officer Major Amnuay Yamark said that police believed it was a case of “killing to cut the link” because the village head was a big drug seller. He said that he didn’t have details about the other three men’s backgrounds and their names were not on the blacklist. After relatives complained to him and other police that there had been no progress in the investigation, they were told that police are investigating the case ‘secretly’.

In a similar case, six local leaders were shot dead in Ban Pang Khon, Huay Chompu sub district, Muang (‘Central’ district, Chiang Rai, while returning in a pick-up truck from an anti-drug meeting on February 27. They were all ethnic Yao villagers, identified as 46-year-old Ban Pa Luang village head Kiattisak Saksrichompoo, 40-year-old Kaoguay Sae Tern, 36-year-old Ulong Sae Fan, and 29-year-olds Bunma Sae Fan, Uguay Sae Tern and Somdej Sae Tern. All but Kiattisak were local administration officials of Huay Chomphu sub-district. At around 4pm, while they were away at the meeting at the Supanimit Foundation, a pickup truck with four men reportedly came to the village and stopped in front of the headman’s house. One of the men told neighbours that they had come from the district governor’s office regarding road construction matters. He explained they were newly transferred to the area, having previously been situated in Nan. A neighbour told them that the headman had gone to Pang Khon village and would return in the evening. One of them gave 200 Baht (US) and saying that they would be back the next day asked for some chicken to be prepared for them. After this they returned to their car and drove to Pang Khon village. Near the end of the road, they parked and asked another group of villagers about the Ban Pa Luang headman. At that time, one of the men in the car recognized a man among the villagers and told him, “Don’t you remember me? I tried to arrest you but you fled.” In fact, police had previously detained that villager on drug charges, but he and his associates had managed to escape custody. Ten days after this chance meeting, that villager was reportedly also shot dead. After the group of men in the car parted from the villagers, not long after the sound of repeated gunfire reached Ban Pang Khon from about two kilometres away. Shortly after, villagers saw the car carrying the four men driving away from the scene. When they went to the site, they saw the headman’s car and the six men riddled with bullets. Kiattisak and Bunma, in the driver and passenger seats, had both been shot from behind; the other four men were all dead in the tray of the pickup truck. Police allege Kiattisak was a drug dealer and speculated that ‘a drug ring might be behind the attack”. They were investigating to find out whether the other five victims also had drug links. Kiattisak’s name was on the local blacklist, however some villagers doubt that he was a drug dealer, as he was active in working with the local administration in drug suppression and anti-drug education programmes. Around 15 years ago he had been involved in opium trading, but at that time this was common in the area. In 1995, he was arrested on a charge of being a heroin producer, but after a two-year court case he was found not guilty. He had not been implicated in any drug-related affairs after that. Bunma’s father, Lek Sae Fan, also denied his son had any drug-trafficking history. In other reported cases where victims were shot while returning from drug suppression meetings, in Narathiwat the head of Chanae Hahama Bado subdistrict, 44-year-old Hahama Bado, and his aide, Rapeng Teuramae, were shot while riding home on a motorbike on the night of February 28. Likewise, the 54-year-old head of Mae Tao sub-district, Mae Sot district, Tak, Bunpan Lanoi, was shot in the chest and right shoulder as he was returning from an anti-drug meeting at around 10pm of March 5. He was wounded in his right arm and shoulder, and later admitted to Mae Sot district hospital.

In another alleged case of “killing to cut the link” 42-year-old Jamnian Nualwilai, a former drug peddler who had turned into a police informant was shot dead in Hinkong sub-district, Muang district, Ratchaburi on February 13. Jamnian was found with four bullet wounds to the head and one in his back. Police said he had 200 methamphetamine pills, 11,000 Baht cash and a mobile phone in his possession. The police say that a drug gang killed him to prevent him betraying them, but Jamnian’s wife ‘Kik’ does not agree. She believes the police killed her husband and made it look as though his old drug gang had done it. Kik said her husband had joined a voluntary government program under which small-time drug traffickers quit and helped authorities with their crackdown. Jamnian joined two years ago and sent in his urine sample every month to prove he was still clean. He even brought other traffickers to the program. Kik did not understand how her husband could be murdered when the police had guaranteed him protection. Five days before the killing, police commended Jamnian for his conduct and told him his name would be removed from the blacklist. “I had not the slightest idea that delisting would end up with my husband being shot dead,” Kik said. “Traffickers would be reluctant to join the program if they had to expose themselves to vengeful acts by drug rings or police. People like my husband would be better off not joining – at least they would not be making themselves sitting ducks. The program application forms are like death warrants,” Kik said. “Gunning someone down will not stop drugs. It is merely a way for officials to glorify their achievements,” she observed. The wife of Jaruk sae Tan also called for authorities to protect – rather than kill – former drug dealers who had given up the illicit business. Jaruk, who had stopped selling drugs more than two years earlier, was shot dead on February 25 while watching television in his restaurant in Muang district, Phuket. During the shooting, a stray bullet injured a four-year-old girl, Suthanma Iamsam-ang, who lives in the neighborhood.

One characteristic of the killings across the country was that they often occurred in daylight and in the presence of witnesses, despite the killers being “unidentified’. For instance, Bussaporn Pung-am, a 39 year-old woman whom police allege to have been a major methamphetamine dealer, was shot dead in her home in Muang district, Nakhon Pathom, on February 11, while having lunch with two neighbors. Witnesses told police that an “unidentified man” got out of a pickup truck, walked inside the grocery store that is part of the house, and shot Bussaporn five times. Police said they found court documents in a bag in her house showing she had acted as a guarantor for more than 200 drug suspects who had been released on bail. Bussaporn herself was once arrested and released on bail, said the deputy commander of Muang district police station, Lt-Colonel Panlert Tangsriphairoj. Similarly, 37-year-old Sommai Thongmee was killed in his house in Pak Pun sub-district, Muang district, Nakhon Si Thammarat on February 4. His wife, Thippawan, said that three men in a double-cab pickup truck had arrived at their house, asking to see Sommai. The men went inside and talked to her husband, before one of them pulled out a pistol and shot Sommai dead. Police said Sommai was a “major drug dealer” and was on the regional blacklist. On the same day, 30-year-old Yongyuth Jongjit was shot dead by a group of nine “unidentified men” at his pig farm in Kanchanadit district, Surat Thani, in front of his workers. Again, the victim was on the local blacklist and police put the killing down to “killing to cut the link”. Likewise, on March 6 a sub-district municipal councillor was shot dead in his car at the Udon intersection of Mitraphap highway, Muang district, Saraburi, while two passengers and three employees in a nearby shop were wounded. The Thap Kwang sub-district official, 40-year-old Manoj Khamsat, was shot in the face, head, chest, legs and arms when a pickup truck carrying about seven men pulled up alongside and one man opened fire with an M16 rifle. Manoj fired back with a pistol, jumped from the truck and attempted to flee, but was shot down. Police said Manoj was on a blacklist, and the killing may have related to drugs or other illicit businesses. Manoj had earlier survived an attack on February 21 in which his wife was shot.

The case of 75-year-old Samniang Chusri stands out as an example of how anybody with her name on a blacklist could be a target for execution. Samniang had been called in by village authorities in Koh Plabphla sub-district, Muang district, Ratchaburi and told she was on a blacklist. Officials tried to coerce her to sign a confession, and renounce drug-related activities. One of her daughters had last year been charged with possessing 21 methamphetamine pills, but Samniang insisted that she had nothing to do with it and refused to sign anything. Days later, on February 25, two men arrived on a motorcycle at the front of a neighbouring shop, where Samniang was having a soft drink on the porch. One pressed his hands in supplication and asked for Samniang’s forgiveness before shooting her in the head and chest. Samniang’s daughter, Pranee Fakchin, said that her mother had been blacklisted, and she had repeatedly gone to the police to try to convince them to take her name off. “Police prepared their suspect list on rumours and they didn’t try to get evidence,?Pranee said. “Now my mother had to die as a consequence. This isn’t fair.?Another daughter, Nitaya Poonsak, added, “They should have arrested her and put her in jail—at least then I could have visited her.?

Killings by the police

Although the majority of killings involved “unidentified?killers, in some 70 cases police have acknowledged responsibility for deaths. In each of these cases the police have excused themselves on the grounds of “self-defence? For instance, on February 12 police killed 32-year-old Chanchai Khamkhomkul in Bangkok’s Klong Toei district while reportedly trying to arrest him as he delivered methamphetamines to a customer. The police maintain that Chanchai started shooting while trying to escape and was killed when they returned fire, hitting him six times. Police said they found 20,000 pills in a bag he was carrying. The next day, police in the same district shot and killed 39-year-old Ukritthana Jesala when he allegedly shot at them as they tried to arrest him.

Also in Bangkok, on March 20 officers of Police Command 5 shot and killed 38-year-old Surasit Singchai in Bang Na district as he allegedly resisted arrest. Colonel Charoen Srisalak reported that police had set up Surasit and arranged to buy 6000 pills from him. When he realized that he was about to be arrested, he began shooting, said Colonel Charoen, causing police to return fire and kill him. On February 24 police on a highway in Chiang Mai province also shot dead an ethnic Hmong couple, Damrong and Somsri Thanomworakul, “on suspicion that they sold drugs? However, there has reportedly been no evidence to connect the handicraft vendors with drugs, nor were they on any blacklist, and nor had they behaved in any way to threaten the police. Relatives insist the couple “had to die to help make state drug suppression records look good?

In the case of 42-year-old Boonteem Chaiyang, the police may first have held him captive and tortured him before executing him. According to the police, Boonteem, of Pha Ham sub-district, Muang district, Chiang Mai, was the target of a sting operation. The police, from Thungkru police station, claim that on the night of February 2 he shot at them on Soi Pracha-uthit 76, in front of Burana Suksa School—police officers Worarit Sunyakanit and Chalothon Wantanachoth were forced to shoot back in “self defence? The police claim that 16,000 amphetamine pills were found in a car being driven by Boonteem. However, his wife, 45-year-old Saengtong Luangwiroj, lodged a complaint with the Forensic Science Institute that the police executed her husband. She alleges in the complaint that Boonteem disappeared on January 28, after he visited his brother Thaksin Chaiyang, who is serving a prison term for a drug conviction. She went to Pracha-chun police station to file a kidnapping complaint, but did not hear anything until receiving news that her husband had been killed. She saw her husband’s body and claims that there were wounds on it suggesting torture, however the body was cremated without forensic investigation. According to the police report, a doctor’s preliminary investigation found that the man was shot in the heart, lungs and spleen. The police also claim that Saengtong didn’t know her husband was a drug dealer, but said that it was the case as his brother is in jail for drug offences. Saengtong, however, says that they were very poor and there was no evidence that her husband had an income from buying and selling drugs.

In a rather different case, a Chinese Haw drug suspect Hong Khaphapu was “found dead?in a detention cell at Hua Mak police station, Bangkok, where he was being held after being arrested at around 3:30pm on March 28 at the Wat Thepleela pier, in possession of 4000 methamphetamine pills. Police claim to have also found around one million Baht (US,000) in his car, and when they searched Hong’s apartment they reportedly found a further 10,000 pills and eight passbooks for bank accounts totaling 600,000 Baht (US,000). Major Komsan Paksin, inspector at Hua Mak police station, said that Hong had admitted to buying a fake Thai citizen ID, and to distributing drugs in the Ramkhamhaeng area after smuggling them from northern provinces. Major Komsan claimed that Hong had drowned himself around 5am in a small bucket of water while in a detention room with several other suspects, none of whom saw what happened. According to Dr Pornthip Rojanasunan, the acting director of the Forensic Science Institute, however, it is impossible for someone to commit suicide by immersing his head in a small bucket of water. Dr Pornthip added that she was unable to investigate the case as it was outside her jurisdiction, but concluded, “We won’t call this suicide.”

Accidental killings of “innocents”

Where the government’s campaign began to founder was when obviously innocent people became victims of shootings, particularly children. The turning point came with the highly publicized case of nine-year-old Chakraphan Srisa-ard, who was killed during a police operation on February 24, in Lan Luang district, Bangkok. Chakraphan was hit by three bullets, while sitting on the back seat of a car driven by his mother, Pornwipa Kerdrungruang, who was trying to flee after police had arrested her husband, Sathaporn, in a trap set up with an arrested dealer. The couple had arrived at Saphan Khao in the Lan Luang area around 9pm. Sathaporn left the car to deliver 6000 amphetamine pills to the plain-clothes police team, who then flashed their badges and arrested him. On seeing her husband’s arrest, Pornwipa tried to drive off. Three policemen, Police Sergeant Major Pipat Sang-in, Police Lance Corporal Anusorn Tansuwan and Police Corporal Panumas Chanacham opened fire, but denied shooting into the car. Independent accounts at the scene suggest that the officers chased Pornwipa in their car as she was trying to drive away. They fired at the vehicle until it crashed into the pavement. The car had six bullet holes in it. The city police chief, Damrongsak Nilkuha, later said that Nang Lerng police had filed murder charges against the three officers, who had been freed on bail after Police Colonel Nipon Pupansri, deputy commander of city Police Command 4, went to guarantee them. Three pistols belonging to the accused police officers were sent to the Scientific Crime Detection Division on February 27 along with the three bullets removed from Chakraphan’s body. The ballistics tests revealed that the spent shells from the bullets believed to have killed Chakraphan did not match the type of handguns carried by the officers. However, a senior policeman conceded that the three policemen might have handed in different guns for the ballistics examination. The examination did not result in a withdrawal of the murder charges against the officers.

National Police Commission spokesman Police Major General Pongsapat Pongcharoen gave the boy’s family 20,000 Baht (US0) to help with funeral costs, however, he added, “Police will continue to take tough measures against drug dealers.” Furthermore, Major General Pongsapat defended the shooting, saying that the officers followed procedure, but the boy’s parents used their son as a shield. Criticism of the shooting came from other quarters, however, including Bangkok Senator and former police chief General Pratin Santiprapop, who called the incident a deliberate killing and said the officers who shot the boy must be held responsible, regardless of their intentions. According to the senator, the case involved an excessive use of arms with the police being intent on using their weapons, even though the suspects had shown no indication of threatening them. The Law Society of Thailand secretary-general Thana Benjathikul agreed that the case represented a deliberate killing since there was no evidence there were guns in the fleeing car. Metropolitan Police Bureau Commissioner Lieutenant General Damrongsak Nilkuha, however, has sought to excuse the police from their actions, saying that the car had dark tinted windows and police could not see that there was a boy on the back seat.

There have been suspicions of a cover-up, amid conflicting accounts of Chakraphan’s death by the police. Police Major General Chakthip quoted the officers as having said that the couple was being secretly accompanied by “guards” who showed up after Sathaporn was arrested. “The policemen said they didn’t fire at the car, and that the bullets were from the guards of the drug dealers,” Chakthip said. Lieutenant Colonel Pakorn Pawilai, the inspector at Nang Lerng police station in charge of the investigation, has also claimed that the police did not fire at the car but rather, “There was a man suspected to be from the same drug ring riding a motorcycle who opened fire at the car and killed the boy.” First Region Police commissioner Major General Theerasak Nguanbanchong has also asserted that there were witnesses who saw “guards” from the same drug ring helping Pornwipa escape the shooting scene. “This group is a major drug ring. They have a protection team when they distribute drugs. It is likely there was a protection team intervening during the commotion,” he said. However, according to Chakraphan’s father, it was the police who shot his son: “We had no protection team with us because we were supposed to be dealing with small-scale buyers – there was no ‘VIP’ involved with us that day,” he said. In order to stem concerns, on February 25 Prime Minister Thaksin said he had already ordered the Special Investigations Department under the Ministry of Justice to investigate the case. However, Police Lieutentant General Noppadol Somboonsap, director-general of the Department, admitted that it would not be able to fully ensure justice in the case because it has yet to receive its full mandate. The draft legislation for the Department to carry out investigations and provide it with funds was still awaiting parliamentary approval.

Meanwhile, shortly after the killing of Chakraphan, a 16-month-old girl and her mother were killed on February 26. The girl’s mother, 38-year-old Raiwan Khwanthongyen, was carrying her baby, nicknamed ‘Ice’ in the centre of Sadao district, Songkhla, police said, when “unidentified gunmen” shot them both. Police Lieutenant Colonel Phakdi Preechachon, the officer in-charge of the investigation, said police assumed the killing was gang-related because Raiwan’s brother was allegedly involved in the drug trade. Raiwan might have known the hitman, Phakdi said, as witnesses saw Raiwan scream when she noticed the man and tried to run away with her daughter in her arms.

Earlier in the month, on February 13, 38-year-old Sam-ang Chumchom was killed by gunfire apparently aimed at a person in an adjacent vehicle at a red light in Udon Thani. Sam-ang was riding a bicycle back home when she stopped alongside the car carrying 27-year-old Sanya Khampatan, the apparent target of the killing, his 50-year-old father, Veera, and his sister, Buala Boonpa. Sanya had just been released on bail after being charged with methamphetamine trafficking. Two gunmen on a motorcycle pulled up alongside, killing Sanya, Veera and Sam-ang. Buala, who survived, said she did not know Sam-ang and the woman just stopped her bicycle at the red light next to the car. Sam-ang’s sister-in-law Bang-orn Chumchom blamed the government for her death. She said the administration’s tough action against drug trafficking had prompted widespread killings to silence small-time drug agents, while the relevant agencies lacked the necessary measures to protect “good people” Of 26 people shot dead in Udon Thani between February 1 to 18, only 18 were reportedly on the government blacklist. Police said they were investigating all cases but “had yet to catch any murder suspects” Sam-ang’s sister-in-law added that no one had offered help with the funeral, and her family’s reputation was ruined because most people presumed that her sister-in-law was also guilty of drug dealing.

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