In an op-ed at Asia Sentinel, usually blocked in Thailand, Charupong Ruangsuwan, the executive-director of the Organization of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy (OFHD), based in San Francisco, and a former Puea Thai Party leader, writes on an epidemic of suicides and flight among senior police and military.
Because of the blocking, we reproduce much of the op-ed.
On 12 February, it was reported that “a Thai police spokesman announced that a high-ranking official, Lt. Col. Chan Chaisawatra, had committed suicide.” Charupong states:
We believe he didn’t commit suicide. We believe he was murdered, the latest in a long series of “suicides” that began last year in what amounts to a reign of terror within the Royal Thai Police.
The claim that he committed suicide is belied by the fact that Chan had been promised a promotion a month earlier. Our investigation in Bangkok has revealed that the junta wanted to set an example for any government employees of the consequences of daring to challenge the authority of Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha….
On Feb. 8, Chan lodged a formal complaint regarding the use of the junta’s notorious Article 44 which gives universal power to the junta leader, including the disbandment of the officer’s investigative division at the police department.
If Chan was murdered, then his “death, after 20 years of service, has sent a shiver to every police officer in Thailand.”
Charupong states that: “The news of his death has not been reported by any Thai media at the moment or they could face grave consequences including the shutdown of their publication.”
But why an “epidemic”? Charupong points out that “[l]ate last year, Maj. Gen. Paween Pongsirin, another high-ranking Thai police officer resigned and escaped death, fleeing to Australia in fear of his life.”
Others have fled:
Police Gen. Khachachart Boondee as well as Maj. Gen. Suchart Prommai, former 11th Infantry Regiment commander now stripped of military rank; Police Col. Col Pairoj Rojanakhajorn, a former chief of the Crime Suppression Division’s Sub-Division 2; and his-then deputy Lt Col Thammawat Hiranyalekha.
Police Major Prakrom Warunprapa and Major General Pisitsak Saneewong na Ayutthaya, the chief bodyguard of Prince Vajiralongkorn, supposedly committed suicide in jail. The prince’s soothsayer, Suriyan Sucharitpolwong, aka Mor Yong, supposedly died of renal failure. Former police spokesman Prawuth Thawornsiri also disappeared.
All of this is chilling:
Academics and past politicians dare not exercise free speech. Countless numbers of Red Shirts and pro-democracy activists has disappeared without any traces. Their loved ones and relatives have contacted me but I couldn’t help them. I am now living in exile in the United States.
What can be done? Not much in Thailand, where the royalist generals and their murderous minions have impunity. Charupong urges:
The United States, the U.K., the E.U., Australia, New Zealand, Japan and all other civilized nations must continue to put pressure on the illegal regime of Gen. Prayuth to respect human rights and stop murdering people who speak their minds peacefully.