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Medical schools join forensic probe into land suspect’s death in custody

Sep 02. 2016
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By Piyanuch Thamnukasetchai,

FORENSIC TEAMS from medical schools have joined the investigation into the suspicious death in police custody of a major suspect in an illegal land-deed registration case.
Justice Minister General Paiboon Koomchaya said yesterday that to ensure transparency in the high-profile case, the forensic teams from Chulalongkorn University, Ramathibodi Medical School, and Siriraj Medical School would participate in the probe along with the Department of Special Investigation (DSI).
Speculation has surrounded the death of Tawatchai Anukul who was reported to have committed suicide by hanging himself in a DSI cell on August 30. An autopsy result at the Police General Hospital, however, indicated that a ruptured liver and suffocation were the cause of his death. 
Paiboon said that he wanted the investigation to be clear and open, and to quell public speculation he had invited the acadmic teams to be involved.
“Currently, three guards who were on duty during the incident have already been questioned by using a polygraph. The suspect’s family was not invited to witness the investigation, so I suggested to DSI that next time the family should be a part of the process that can be disclosed and … let them acknowledge the authorities’ procedures,” Paiboon said.
He insisted that no other person has yet been implicated in Tawatchai’s death. He added that if it can be verified that the DSI was involved in his death, the agency would be punished by law.
Justice Ministry permanent secretary Charnchao Chaiyanukij stated that the investigation will have a 15-day deadline.
“I guarantee that Tawatchai’s family can monitor every process of the investigation to ensure transparency and we have his family’s cooperation by sending his body to the morgue at Thammasat Rangsit Hospital,” Charnchao said.
DSI chief Pol Colonel Paisit Wongmuang also assured that the DSI will not interfere in the investigation.
Tawatchai’s brother, Chainarong Anukul, said that regardless of the outcome of the probe he still questioned why the DSI only showed him CCTV footage of the hallway in the detention area, not inside the detention room.
Paisit said all surveillance cameras were operating at the time of the incident and denied speculation that the cameras were missing.
He also said the CCTV records were available for inspection by any related agency or individual.
Tawatchai’s body was brought from Wat Bang Luang Temple to Thammasat University Hospital yesterday for postmortem by Thammasat University’s forensic team. It is expected to take 45 days to conclude the result.
Commander of the 2nd Metropolitan Police Division Pol Maj-General Charoen Srisaluk said the division has set up a truth-finding committee headed by Pol Colonel Komsak Sumangkaset. As it is considered a sensitive case, the attorneys will also join the investigation.
“We have already questioned all the guards who were on duty that day, but as of now this case is still not a criminal case as we have to wait for the official autopsy result first,” Charoen said. Pol Colonel Mana Pohchuay, Thung Song Hong Police Station superintendent, said that police have questioned more than 10 medical staff from Mongkutwattana General Hospital who were originally involved in treating Tawatchai.

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