By KORNKAMOL AKSORNDECH
Six hours of talk with police and relatives fail; man accused of killing two academics shoots himself dead.
WANCHAI Danaitamonut, a lecturer at Phranakhon Rajabhat University, who is suspected of murdering two colleagues on Wednesday, shot himself dead after police tracked him down to a Bangkok hotel yesterday.
After six hours of negotiations with police, and also his relatives, Wanchai shot himself at around 6.45pm. He was taken to a hospital and was later pronounced dead, according to police. All through the day, the suspect had pointed his pistol to his temple during the negotiations for his surrender.
The standoff, broadcast live by many television channels, continued into the evening.
Wanchai was accused of shooting dead two doctorate-degree holders – Pichai Chaisongkram, 56, and Nattapon Chumwor-athayee, 54 – while they were giving an oral exam to a master’s student on campus.
The motive was believed to be Wanchai’s alleged conflict with Pichai over academic qualifications. It remains unclear if Wanchai also had issues with Nattapon.
As an army of TV cameramen and reporters observed the standoff inside and in the parking lot of the hotel on Suttisan Winitchai Soi 1, police brought two senior relatives of Wanchai and two students to the scene to convince him to put down the gun, which he kept pointing to his temple, while standing next to his car within the hotel compound.
Earlier in the morning, one of Wanchai’s relatives identified only as Heng testified to police at 1pm about a Line message in which Wanchai told Heng that after his death, his body should be cremated at a temple near Heng’s residence. Police investigators and Heng then abruptly left the Bang Khen precinct at 11am.
At 1.30pm, police reported that they had located Wanchai in Suttisarn Winitchai Soi 1 in Phya Thai district, resulting in the siege, which was overseen by acting Metropolitan Police chief Pol Lt-General Sanit Mahathaworn.
Wanchai, who appeared to be exhausted from a lack of sleep and stress, kept pointing the gun to his head while his relatives tried to convince him to give himself up.
Police who watched from less than 100 metres away occasionally clapped their hands and talked about Wanchai’s previous merits to encourage him to give in.
An ambulance was standing by in front of the hotel’s entrance while commando units were positioned around the place.
Curbs on live telecast
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Com-mission yesterday sent an urgent letter ordering all television channels to stop broadcasting live the standoff between Wanchai and police. Continuous live broadcast of such violent images could be violation of the law, the watchdog said.
Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin, director of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Rajanagarindra Institute, asked TV media, which broadcast the stand-off live for more than three hours, to stop because the constant live coverage had increased pressure on the suspect and negotiators who wanted to save the suspect’s life. The constant TV coverage also made it more difficult for authorities to handle the situation with the risk of undesirable images and footage. The live streaming raised media experts’ concern over journalists’ ethics.
“It’s risky and this may have violated media ethics,” said Banyong Suwanpong, a member of the ethics committee of the Thai Journalists Association and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association. “The event is so sensitive that the media should avoid live broadcast,” he said.
Pirongrong Ramasoota, a communication arts lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, said the media should not interfere in a police operation.