Supreme Court overturns murder convictions of 5 cops

The Supreme Court frees five policeman convicted by the Criminal and Appeal courts of the murder of a teenage drug suspect at Kalasin police station in 2004. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the convictions of five of six policemen sentenced for the murder of a drug suspect in Kalasin in 2004.

The Supreme Court gave the defendants the benefit of the doubt, ruling that the testimony of the single witness was insufficient to substantiate the charges against them.

The detailed statements made by the witness were flawed and not convincing, the court said.

The ruling led to the release of Pol Snr Sgt Maj Angkhan Khammunna, 54, Pol Snr Sgt Maj Sutthinan Nonthing, 49, Pol Snr Sgt Maj Phansin Uppanan, 48, Pol Lt Col Samphao Indi, 57, and Pol Lt Col Sumit Nansathit, 51.

The sixth defendant, Pol Col Montri Sibunlue, 68, earlier jumped bail and is still on the run.

Public prosecutors and Kittisap Thitbunkrong filed suit against the six for the murder of Mr Kittisap's son Kiattisak, a 17-year-old drug suspect, at Muang police station in Kalasin on July 22-23, 2004.

The lawsuit also charged that the six officers took the victim's body to a hut beside a paddy field in Roi Et’s Chan Han district and left it there, to conceal the murder.

Between July 30, 2004 and April 27, 2005, Pol Lt Col Samphao, Pol Col Montri and Pol Lt Col Sumit had threatened a number of people into posing as false witnesses and giving them an alibi, the lower courts heard.

The Criminal Court in 2012 handed down the death sentence for Pol Snr Sgt Maj Angkhan, Pol Snr Sgt Maj Sutthinan and Pol Snr Sgt Maj Phansin. Pol Lt Col Sumit was sentenced to six years in jail and Pol Col Montri seven years behind bars. Pol Lt Col Samphao was dismissed.

The Appeal court in 2015 upheld the death sentence for Pol Snr Sgt Maj Angkhan and Pol Snr Sgt Maj Phansin, but commuted Pol Snr Sgt Maj Sutthinan's sentence to 20 years. Pol Lt Col Samphao was given life imprisonment, and Pol Lt Col Sumit and Pol Col Montri were sentenced to five years behind bars.

Pol Lt Col Samphao, Pol Lt Col Sumit and Pol Col Montri were released on bail to fight the case. Pol Col Montri, who was the Muang police station chief in Kalasin at the time of the crime, skipped bail and remains free.

The defendants were surrounded by relatives, who cried and hugged them, after the judge finished reading the ruling on Thursday.

The 2004 murder occurred against the background of then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's highly controversial war against drugs. 

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