By THE NATION
Constructor Sornchai Sathitrakdamrong was killed January 2 amid murky circumstances.
“We will handle this case transparently,” pledged deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon yesterday.
“We will proceed in line with laws,” he said after learning from news reports that the fatal bullet must have come from a soldier.
Sornchai was driving his girlfriend to visit his family in Chiang Rai province at night when he was shot for failing to stop at a checkpoint.
Following his death, his family demanded justice. Last Friday, police arrested the assistant village head, Wutthichai Injai, as the suspected shooter but the family’s plea for a transparent, thorough investigation continued as doubts lingered as to whether Wutthichai was the actual or only culprit.
According to the family’s lawyer, officials staffing the checkpoint quickly disappeared after finding nothing illegal in Sornchai’s car.
Sornchai’s girlfriend, who was with him during the shooting, said the couple did not stop only because they did not see any official that night.
On Wednesday, she and Sornchai’s relatives flew from Chiang Rai to Bangkok to meet prominent lawyer Songkran Achariyasap and Deputy National Police Commissioner Pol General Songkran Ransibrahmanakul.
Following the meeting, Chiang Rai police chief Pol Maj-General Yuttachai Puaprasert was ordered to nail down the culprits within three days. Pol Maj-General San Sukwat, who heads a local forensic science division, was also told to report the test results of the lethal bullet by yesterday noon.
The results showed the fatal bullet came from an M16 assault rifle, not the 9mm gun used by Wutthichai. Wutthichai had insisted that he pulled out the gun but fired three shots into the sky. Three soldiers joined the team at the checkpoint on January 2. All three were junior staff.
An informed source said the soldier suspected of firing the fatal shot was based in Phayao province.
“He will be handed over to the Mae Suay Police Station that is in charge of the case by Friday [today] at the latest,” the source said.