Updated 0209 GMT (1009 HKT) August 12, 2020
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“The public sentiment is that there are different standards when it comes to the rich and the poor.”Ekachai Chainuvati, law lecturer at Siam University in Bangkok
A life of luxury
Death of a witness
Sept 3, 2012
Sgt. Major Wichien Klanprasert, a Thai police officer, is killed when his motorcycle is struck by a Ferrari allegedly driven by Vorayuth Yoovidhya.
Vorayuth is charged with reckless driving causing death and speeding, among other crimes.
Speeding charge expires.
An arrest warrant is issued for Vorayuth, but he has already left the country.
All other charges, besides reckless driving causing death, expire.Jul 23, 2020
Thai Royal Police confirm to CNN that the OAG advised them to drop the case against Vorayuth in June. Public outcry follows.Jul 26, 2020
OAG appoints a committee to examine why the case was dropped.Jul 27, 2020
Police also announce an internal investigation.Jul 29, 2020
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha orders a probe into the circumstances of the case.Jul 30, 2020
Key witness Jaruchart Mardthong dies in a motorcycle accident.Aug 4, 2020
The OAG’s committee recommends the OAG advise police to re-investigate the case.Aug 10, 2020
OAG accepts the recommendations and gives police until August 20 to file a report on their findings.Sources: Royal Thai Police, CNN reportingPolice say their inquiries suggest Jaruchart lost control of his motorcycle and clipped the wheel of the other rider, who survived the crash.Prachuab said the collision appeared to be an accident, but police hadn’t ruled out a possible “murder motivation.” “We are investigating suspects surrounding Jaruchart,” he said.To some observers, the timing was curious — Jaruchart’s death came one day after Prime Minister Prayut announced that he had set up a committee to investigate the dropping of Vorayuth’s case.Others have raised another point of suspicion — Jaruchart’s cellphone had gone missing after the crash. Jaruchart had been working for the owner of local football club. Lt. Gen. Prachuab told CNN that another of the club’s employees had told police that he took Jaruchart’s cellphone after the crash and deleted all the photos. He said he wanted to remove any evidence of his association with Jaruchart because he was going to run in a local election and didn’t want to be associated with the Red Bull scandal, Prachuab said.As speculation swirled around the cause of the incident, Prayut ordered a halt to Jaruchart’s cremation scheduled for August 2 and Chiang Mai police seized his body for a second autopsy.The second autopsy showed Jaruchart had suffered a fractured skull, a ruptured spleen, a broken rib bone, and bleeding in his brain and stomach — injuries consistent with a traffic accident, authorities said. Results of the first autopsy have not been released.Then on Tuesday, August 4, another twist.The OAG’s committee cited more “new evidence” — expert opinion from Sathon Vijarnwannaluk, a physics lecturer at Chulalongkorn University who estimated that the Ferrari was traveling at 177 kph, matching the initial conclusion drawn by the police expert.The committee said it had heard interviews Vijarnwannaluk gave to several Thai media outlets the previous week, in which he claimed to have been a part of the original team tasked by police to examine the crash. He said his team used CCTV footage to calculate the speed of the Ferrari, and had concluded that it was traveling at 177 kph.The OAG committee claimed that Vijarnwannaluk’s assessment was not included in the police case file, and thus the public prosecutor was unaware of his estimate when he decided to drop the charges. The committee said the public prosecutor didn’t see the 177 kph estimate anywhere in the police report.An OAG spokesman said Vijarnwannaluk’s expert opinion led the committee to recommend that the OAG order police to reopen the investigation into the speed of Vorayuth’s Ferrari at the time of the crash for the possible charge of reckless driving causing death, said Prayut Bejraguna, deputy spokesman for the OAG.The committee also suggested police investigate an additional drug allegation against Vorayuth, as it said blood tests conducted following the accident showed traces of the drug, Prayut said.On Monday, the OAG announced that it was acting on both recommendations and gave police investigators 10 days to file their report.“The main message we are sending today is that the OAG has revived the case, given breath back to it, so it can… bring ‘Boss’ back to the justice system,” said Prayut, from the OAG.
A family scandalThe scandal has not only angered Thai society, it’s driven a wedge through a family that has long remained silent on the issue.In a rare statement last month, some members of Vorayuth’s extended family apologized “for the news of our family member that has caused anger, hatred, and dissatisfaction that is increasingly voiced in society.”“We have to issue this letter to express our regret over this incident and to confirm our respect for a justice system which should provide justice to all without discrimination,” the statement said.The family of the police officer killed in the 2012 crash, have expressed surprise at the latest turn of events. In an interview with “Hone-Krasae,” a popular Thai television talk show, his sister-in-law Nattanun Klanprasert said she was shocked to hear that new evidence had emerged.She said police had previously told her there were no eye-witnesses to the crash.“Now, Sr. Sgt. Wichien became the one who committed recklessness instead and caused the accident. He became wrong?” she said, her voice raised.The charges against Vorayuth have not been reinstated — yet — but he is still a wanted man.Vicha Mahakun, head of the independent probing committee set up by Prime Minister Prayut, said Wednesday the arrest warrant against Vorayuth is still in place, after a court asked police to withdraw their previous request to revoke it.Police have until August 20 to interview witnesses and compile a report for the OAG — only then could a case that has intrigued and angered the Thai public for years take another step towards a possible conclusion in court.
Kocha Olarn reported from Bangkok, Thailand. Nectar Gan wrote and reported from Hong Kong.
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