With his face resting in a pool of blood, Pol Capt Sahapol Gharmvilai, a 45-year-old investigator, was found dead at his desk. Next to his body lay his 9mm service weapon, one cartridge discharged. Pol Col Chawalit Naksuk, a superintendent at the police station in Si Maha Phot district, said his subordinate had committed suicide because he suffered from many chronic illnesses.
But Pol Capt Sahapol's wife, Nittaya Gharmvilai, 38, disagreed with that assessment.
In front of shocked onlookers at her husband's funeral service, Ms Nittaya angrily threw away and stomped on a floral wreath that had been given by Pol Col Chawalit.
She told Spectrum her husband had killed himself not because he was ill, but because his superior had run a relentless campaign of harassment and intimidation against him simply because he chose to do his job honestly.
There have been reports of at least 15 police officer suicides nationwide so far this year. Many more are likely to have gone unreported in the media.
Among the cases, the factors which drove the men to their deaths vary but debt, domestic conflicts and work-related stress appear to be a leading cause.
The high rate of suicide has caught the eye of senior police authorities, who have implemented structural changes within the force to try and stave off depression and anxiety among its officers.
The Police Bureau has also launched a campaign urging high-ranking officers to keep a closer eye on their subordinates and send them for counselling or psychiatric treatment if needed.
Pol Lt Col Anchalee Theerawongpaisarn, deputy spokeswoman of the Royal Thai Police Office and a psychiatrist at the Police General Hospital, revealed that between 2008 and 2012 an average of 31 policemen committed suicide annually. The vast majority were aged between 41 and 50 and many worked in crime suppression.
With about 230,000 officers making up the national police ranks, the figures place the suicide rate at 13.4 per 100,000, more than double the rate of 6.2 for the general population.
Most police suicides involve the use of the officer's service weapon. ''Suicide is often a spontaneous decision,'' Pol Lt Col Anchalee said. ''With a lethal weapon at hand, suicides can be easily completed.
''Most [of the suicides] are police senior sergeant majors, which is the highest rank among the non-commissioned officers,'' she explained.
Regulations were changed recently to allow the promotion of senior sergeant majors to higher ranks.
Previously, it was impossible for NCOs to progress to commissioned ranks.
''Many senior sergeant majors, before this rule change, felt bored or frustrated as they were stuck in that position with no prospect of promotion,'' Pol Lt Col Anchalee said, adding that this frustration helped fuel depression and anxiety. ''The rule change should give them a more promising future with new responsibilities, higher salaries and better opportunities.''
The plan, however, hasn't played out exactly as expected. Some officers chose to end their lives as a result of the changes, as they were unable to cope with the added responsibility of promotion.
Police investigators said Pol Sen Sgt Boonchana Soodyoda from Nakhon Pathom, killed himself due to anxiety over his lack of computer skills, driving skills and inability to write case reports when faced with the prospect of attaining a higher rank.
Help is available to officers who feel the need to talk about their problems. But getting them to seek it is a core part of the challenge, and is why the Police Bureau is encouraging senior officers to try and spot the warning signs early.
''They can go to any hospital close to their police station or to their residence to get medical treatment or advice from psychiatrists,'' Pol Lt Col Anchalee said.
At the Police General Hospital where she works, psychiatrists treat both police officers and civilians.
''One quarter of the patients are policemen,'' she said.
''Their concerns range from work-related stress to family disputes and personal dilemmas that sometimes become overwhelming.''
Some officers come to see doctors voluntarily when they feel stressed, she said. Others are brought there by concerned family members or friends - but most are sent there by their superiors.
''Those with alcohol problems are ordered to stop drinking since it causes many problems at work and can strain relationships with co-workers and families,'' Pol Lt Col Anchalee said, adding that she often prescribes a strict regimen of ''SEX'' (sleep, eat and exercise) as a basic method of stress reduction.
Job-related stress, changing assignments and frustrating administrative policies are all key causes of police suicide, she said. On the home front, marital problems, alcoholism and debt play a leading role.
However, in many cases the factors which motivate individual suicides remain unclear, adding to the grief of devastated families.
LOVED ONES LEFT BEHIND
While the true cause of her husband's suicide was never confirmed, Ms Nittaya maintains workplace harassment was to blame.
''He was not suffering from any chronic diseases. This pisses me off. My husband had been threatened with jail, suspension or expulsion from the force,'' she said. ''This drove him to become extremely stressed.''
Ms Nittaya said the conflict began shortly after a high-ranking police officer led a drug raid on a party. The officers allegedly tortured several teenagers to coerce them to confess to drugs charges.
Their parents then filed legal suits against the police.
''My husband was on duty and accepted the case, making the group of policemen angry and they turned against him,'' she said.
Pol Capt Sahapol submitted a letter requesting a transfer to another station. When the request was turned down, he took his own life, his wife said.
Determined to prove her point, Ms Nittaya submitted a petition to the parliamentary commission for police affairs, requesting a probe into his death.
She admitted she was scared to fight the case. ''In the end I overcame it [the fear]. I wanted the truth,'' she said.
During the commission's investigation, Pol Col Chawalit denied bullying Pol Capt Sahapol, and the panel's findings were inconclusive. However, Pol Col Chawalit has offered to pay tuition fees for Ms Nittaya's eldest son, who is now studying at a private college in Bangkok.
''The tuition fee is 27,000 baht per term, two terms a year. My son will study for four years. He [Pol Col Chawalit] paid for the first term already. He will transfer the tuition fee for the second term in October,'' Ms Nittaya said.
At the same time, the police association provides financial support for her son of about 4,000 baht a month.
Ms Nittaya now lives with her 20-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter and runs a small beauty salon in Prachin Buri. But since her husband's death, her financial situation has remained dire.
Pol Capt Sahapol had brought home about 22,600 baht as a monthly salary. On top of that, he received 15,000 baht in allowances each month, plus extra pay for processing case documents.
But that income is now gone, and Ms Nittaya is struggling to make ends meet.
''At present, there is high competition because more and more beauty salons are opening in the community,'' she said.
''Without financial support from my husband's salary, our family's financial situation is not secure.''OFFICERS DOWN
There have been 15 cases of apparent police suicide reported in the media so far this year. Official police statistics are unavailable, however, and the actual figure is likely higher as relatives are usually reluctant to make suicides public.
Pol Sen Sgt Boonchana Soodyoda, 53, was found dead at his Nakhon Pathom home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
He was about to be promoted, but was apparently anxious about his new responsibilities, especially about his lack of computer skills and report writing abilities, investigating officers said.
The same day, Pol Sen Sgt Somsak Manonon, 43, shot himself in the head. Investigators blamed family conflicts and alcohol abuse.
Pol Sgt Noppadol Petkrong, 39, a traffic officer at Dusit police station, shot himself at home in front of his wife, according to media reports.
Police Sen Sgt Suradej Kantiyanetre, 41, killed himself in front of his house. Investigators said he suffered from a chronic liver condition as a result of alcohol abuse.
Pol Sen Sgt Somsak Manonoi, 43, from Ang Thong, shot himself inside his police station living quarters while off duty. He had a severe drinking problem and had been criticised by his superiors for his poor work performance, authorities said.
Pol Sub Lt Kranchai Phol-aree, 51, shot himself at his house in Phitsanulok's Bang Krathum district. Family and friends attributed the suicide to debt and work-related stress.
In Pattani, Kapho district police station chief Pol Col Adul Peenaba-ngo shot himself in a car in front of a local clinic, where he had an appointment with a psychiatrist. Both the driver and the victim's wife, who were in the car at the time, said the suicide was unexpected even though Pol Col Adul suffered from depression.
Pol Lt Col Paitoon Raisranoi was found dead, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, on a roadside in Ayutthaya. The reason for his suicide remains under investigation.
Pol Sen Sgt Chonntad, 47, left behind a message saying he was too tired to continue living. He put a gun against his right ear and pulled the trigger. His friend told police the victim had been recently spurned by a lover.
The wife of Pol Lt Pichit Saowaluckul, 57, from Lampang province, discovered the body of her husband in their house compound. The family was deep in debt, but the wife told police and media there were no warning signs her husband was planning to kill himself.
Pol Lt Col Porawee Yoosenas, deputy superintendent for crime suppression at Sida police station in Nakhon Ratchasima, shot himself in the head at his home. He was taken to hospital but died from his wounds. Investigators blamed severe debt troubles for the suicide.
Pol Sen Sgt Rattakarn Kerdthongkhan shot himself and his wife while on the run from authorities. He was accused of murdering a district official in Surin province.
Police said Pol Sub Lt Vorapoj Setwattanasakul shot himself in his car in front of a subordinate on Sept 21.
His wife, however, has raised doubts, noting the gunshot wound was on her husband's right temple despite him being left-handed. She also questioned why her husband would have used his subordinate's gun rather than his own.
On Sept 22, former officer Pol Sen Sgt Somboon Nooraksa, 46, killed himself after he raped and murdered a woman in a car in Prachuap Khiri Khan, police said.
On Sept 23, Pol Sen Sgt Paitoon Fangkham, from Bang Pong Pang police station, shot himself in the head at his Bangkok townhouse. Investigators said he had suffered from stress and depression due to a recent divorce and heavy debts. He had earlier failed in a suicide attempt in which he cut his own throat.