By The Nation
Santhana was taken from his detention cell to Bangkok’s Don Muang Police Station after the Criminal Court approved eight arrest warrants against him over allegations of extortion at Donmuang Modern Market.
Santhana, an adviser to the market’s operator, told reporters: “I slept well because this police station was my ‘former home’ [office].” Then he added: “The Royal Thai Police took good care of me. I’ll see what other agencies will do.”
Later yesterday, Santhana’s lawyer Apichat Kruachua secured his client’s temporary release on bail by paying a Bt300,000 surety. Santhana was bailed to attend court at 9am on July 2.
The court’s bail conditions forbade Santhana from tampering with evidence or witnesses, and from leaving the country without permission.
Santhana later said he would soon submit a letter to the national police chief about three police generals who had a problem with him, resulting in “overreactions” and discrimination.
He cited the Thai SWAT team’s raid of his condo last week and the fact he was publicly marched away in handcuffs without the benefit of cloth to cover his wrists. He said police should feel ashamed to have treated him so unfairly.
“People have criticised me for my loud personality. I said I would never be defeated because I didn’t do anything wrong. I’ve been a fighter throughout my life and I will fight until the end,” he said, insisting there was a hidden agenda behind the charges by people who might even want him dead.
The police application for his detention had claimed that Santhana and 10 others had allegedly extorted monthly “protection money” from vendors from April 2016-April 2018, amounting to Bt1,000-Bt3,000 per shop and that he threatened them if they refused.
Santhana has repeatedly denied the charges so police plan to interview 50 other witnesses to strengthen their case. They are also waiting for the results of forensic and criminal record checks, hence their request to detain him until May 24.
Police opposed bail on the grounds that the crime had many victims and because they feared that Santhana, who allegedly led a gang of at least 20 men, might flee or tamper with evidence and/or witnesses.
Santhana said he learned that the accusations against him and company employees stemmed from eight vendors who claimed their shops would not be allowed to stay open unless they paid the “protection money”.
“Only eight of the market’s 500 shops have this issue? This group might be ‘convinced’ to accuse me,” he said before he and his wheelchaired 91-year-old father Pol Colonel Somchai Prayoonrat left the court in separate vehicles.
Earlier this month, Santhana confronted a senior police officer as he led a team probing an allegation that some shops were selling substandard products.
Meanwhile, national police deputy chief Pol General Weerachai Songmetta insisted that more than 100 people had testified that they had paid “protection money” and they should not be afraid of Santhana’s counter-lawsuits.
Weerachai said no one had falsely accused or bullied Santhana as he claimed. He also said further charges related to the growing number of victims would be filed and police were gathering evidence to support the arrests of more suspects, many of whom had reportedly fled the market.