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Manhunt for sacked police chief, known as ‘Jo Ferrari’, wanted over viral torture video

Written by on 26/08/2021

A major manhunt is under way in Thailand for a former senior police officer who allegedly killed a drugs suspect in custody while trying to extort money from him.

Warrants were issued for the arrest of seven officers for murder after a video emerged of a man suffocating after plastic bags were put over his head.

The group were trying to extort two million Thai baht (£44,399) from the man.

A Royal Thai Police spokesman said five of the group allegedly involved have been arrested but two were still on the run following the incident on 5 August at their police station in the province of Nakhon Sawan, north of Bangkok.

They include Police Colonel Thitisan Utthanaphon, nicknamed “Jo Ferrari” due to his collection of sports cars. He was sacked as Muang police station chief when the allegations came to light.

A leaked CCTV video clip of the incident sparked public outrage after it was shared on the Facebook page of a lawyer earlier this week. Sittra Biabangkerd said he was given it by an officer at the police station.

It shows the male suspect in handcuffs being led into a room, his head covered with a plastic bag. He is then assaulted and thrown to the floor by officers who put more bags on his head.

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One of them appears to briefly kneel on him.

The man, identified by Thai media as 24-year-old Jeerapong Thanapat, then goes limp. Police try to revive him with a jug of water and CPR.

Another lawyer, Decha Kittiwittayanan, published an account of the alleged murder on his Facebook account after reportedly receiving a complaint from a junior police officer.

It is alleged the officers first tried to extort one million baht (£22,199) from him to pay for his release before doubling the demand on the orders of Pol Col Utthanaphon.

Following the suspect’s death it is claimed he then ordered his men to take the body to a hospital and say the man had died from a suspected methamphetamine overdose.

The junior officer said a woman arrested at the same time was released.

Sawanpracharak Hospital issued a statement confirming it received the body on 5 August and was told the man collapsed and died running away from police. An internal review is under way.

Meanwhile, a dedicated team of detectives have been appointed to investigate the case against the officers.

Police said they were working “round the clock” to arrest the two suspects still at large.

“The chief of police has instructed immigration police, border police and all units to stay on alert in order to arrest the remaining police officers and bring them to justice,” Police Colonel Kissana Phathanacharoen told Sky News.

As part of the investigation police found 29 cars registered to Pol Col Utthanaphon including supercars from Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini and Bentley, according to Thai media.

Campaigners are now demanding a full and transparent inquiry into police misconduct in Thailand.

“A prosecution fully independent of the Thai police is needed if there is any hope of justice in the torture and killing of Jeerapong Thanapat,” said Brad Adams, the Asia Director at Human Rights Watch.

“Successive Thai governments have a long history of failing to ensure accountability for even the most ghastly police abuses against people in custody.”

The police spokesman agreed the case was not “a good image for the Royal Thai police as a whole”, but added justice would be served.

“There are a lot of good cops out there, but if there is one bad cop we have to deal with them. We have to take serious, disciplined action and also criminal actions against them. So we’ve got to separate the bad and the good,” Pol Col Phathanacharoen said.

 Sky News

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