Police have now confirmed the arrest of fugitive Police Colonel Thitisan Utthanaphon, nicknamed ‘Jo Ferrari’. Five other arrested suspects, including a major and a captain, have been before a judge who ordered them held without bail on charges of dereliction of duty, torture and murder.
Additionally Lieutenant Taranin. Masawanna, former deputy sergeant at Nakhon Sawan Police Station had travelled to Hua Hin and decided to surrender. He was taken by helicopter to Naresuan Camp in Cha-Am before being returned to Nakhon Sawan.
Thitisan reportedly surrendered to a search team across the border in Myanmar in Myawaddy, before being brought back to Mae Sot on Thursday afternoon.
The Royal Thai Police Suwat Jangyodsuk allowed former cop and murder to address the nation in a nationally televised press conference.
Suwat said social media had been reporting that Thitisant was trying to extort the dead drug dealer so he wanted people “to hear what happened from the mouth of the person who had committed the crime.”
Thitisant: Let me tell you what actually happened, the truth is that we captured a suspect who has in his possession one kilo of methamphetamine and around 10,000-20,000 Yaba tablets.
Normally I do not take charge but this was a big case. We have questioned him and he would not tell the truth. I admit that what I have done is not right but my intention was to get information so we could find the drugs that are hurting the people in Nakhon Sawan.
It is all my fault and I have ordered all my subordinates to do what I said, they are not involved and they tried to stop me.
We wanted to do our job, this has nothing to do with money. I admit what I have done is wrong and I will accept whatever the court rules, they can sentence me to life imprisonment.
I had no intention to kill him, my only intention is to do my job for the people to protect the young people from being addicted to drugs.
I only put on the bag on his head because I did not want him to see my face but he tried to rip the bag off so I had to tie him down and put the handcuff on him or else he would try to rip the bag. I have never done this before; this is the first time.
When the suspect passed out, we were in shock, and we do not know what to do. When we checked his pulse and his breathing we found he was still breathing and it was weak.
This is not about trying to extort money, since I’ve become a public servant I have never engaged in corruption.
The reason why there is a document which said that he dies from meth intoxication was because we were told by his wife that he was using a lot of drug every day, he doesn’t really sleep so we believed that he knocked out because he was using drug.
First, I would like to say sorry to all Thai citizens. All I wanted to do is my job but I have made a mistake and I admitted my mistake.
Secondly, I would like to say sorry to the mother and father of the person because it was unintentional.
Third, I would like to say sorry to the chief of police and every police officer that this is my mistake and there are many good police, this is all my fault, and I would like to say sorry to everyone.
We did not know what to do so we just informed the father and figured out what to do later.
I admit that it was my mistake because I was in shock and nothing like this ever happened. I am still young and I have little experience so I have to admit my mistake
‘Jo Ferrari’ was the most wanted officer in connection with the torture and murder of a suspected drug dealer while in police custody.
Earlier this week, a leaked video appeared to show ‘Jo Ferrari’ and other officers present during the tortuous death of a suspect in police custody.
Prior to featuring online and repeatedly shown on television news, the video was initially shared on the Facebook page of a prominent lawyer who said it had been received it from a junior police officer at the Nakhon Sawan station where all but one of the suspects worked.
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. One of them appears to briefly kneel on him until he goes limp.
Police started investigating the case after a well-known lawyer, Decha Kittiwittayanan, published an account of it on his Facebook page. Decha said he had received a complaint from a junior policeman in Nakhon Sawan who said that police had arrested two drug suspects, the 24-year-old man and his female companion, with more than 100,000 methamphetamine tablets.
The allegation is that the police first demanded 1 million baht from the suspects, which they agreed to pay for their release. But then Thitisan demanded double that amount and ordered his subordinates to cover the male suspect’s head with a plastic bag and beat him until he agreed.
When the suspect died, Thitisan allegedly ordered his men to take the body to the hospital and tell the doctor the death was caused by a drug overdose. The report goes on to allege the woman was released but told not to say anything about it, and that Thitisan paid the victim’s father to remain silent.
The initial police response to the furor over the video was to transfer Thitisan to another post. They urged people to stop sharing the video, saying it harms “the victim’s dignity and affects an ongoing investigation.”
It may be noted that in many countries such a video being made public could be detrimental to a successful prosecution case, especially with a jury needing to be impartial pre-trial. With a graphic video showing George Floyd’s last minutes, an acquittal of Derek Chauvin was a clear possibility said UC Berkeley criminal justice expert Jonathan Simon.
After Thitisan’s arrest, National Police Chief Suwat Janyodsuk said I apologise that this has happened.” He told reporters at a news conference “we never release anyone who did wrong without punishment,” saying little more about the case, but gave the apprehended colonel an opportunity to address reporters by telephone and answer questions.
Thitisan defended his actions, denying any part in a shakedown and insisting he was attempting to get information from the drug dealer about where he had stashed his main supply of methamphetamine.
“Since I’ve been in the police I have never been involved in corruption, I did not have any intention to kill him, I just wanted to do my work.”
Thitisan is also known as a ‘playboy’ who dated models and boasted a collection of sports cars including a Lamborghini limited-edition Aventador LP 720-4 50 Anniversary special, which he claimed to be the first person in the country to own, along with a Bentley Continental GT, Ferrari 488 GTB and several Mercedes and Porsche.
However this apparent wealth, including a home in Bangkok worth about 60 million baht, he has previously escaped responses from offices handling police integrity such as the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission and the Office of the Ombudsman.
Thailand’s Chief Ombudsman once said that the country’s police force is its most corrupt agency, based on thousands of complaints lodged to the office. According to Mr. Wasboonma, DSG of the Office of the Ombudsman of Thailand ‘the Code of Ethics of the police in Thailand is very well detailed, but not well applied in practice. Most complaints we receive are addressed to police officers’
International condemnation has followed, not just about this death in custody but pointing out much broader issues in the culture and integrity of Police operations in Thailand.
Paul Chambers, an affiliated researcher at Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF) and an expert on Thai security services, said. this is a symptom of a wider dilemma in Thailand, he says corruption is widespread among Thailand’s police force.
US media conglomerate Bloomberg commented that allegations of police brutality and corruption are not uncommon in Thailand. The UK Daily Mail said ‘’despite being illegal, bribes are a widely accepted part of the Thai justice system with officers across the country accepting payments in order for cases to be dropped.
Human Rights Watch has called for a transparent, outside investigation. “A prosecution fully independent of the Thai police is needed if there is any hope of justice,” said Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director. “Successive Thai governments have a long history of failing to ensure accountability for even the most ghastly police abuses against people in custody.”