THE RECENT mysterious death of former land official Tawatchai Anukul while in the custody of Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has raised many dubious points.
Tawatchai was investigated after complaints were filed about the land deeds of more than 1,000 plots of state land in Phuket being illegally registered. While authorities were checking to see why he would approve these illegal documents, he was transferred to the Phang-Nga Provincial Land Department.
Tawatchai’s successor in Phuket was then abducted and found shot dead – which authorities believe was a motive for Tawatchai to go into hiding. After DSI officers arrested Tawatchai in Nonthaburi province on Monday – three days before his arrest warrant expired – the suspect was handed over to the DSI Bureau of Consumer Protection and Environment Crime investigators. He was seen smiling and saying that he would seek bail.
A day later, he was allegedly found hanging by attaching his socks to the door of his detention room – just a few hours before he was due to appear in Criminal Court.
Conflicting reports were issued about what he actually used to allegedly hang himself. Initially a DSI official said he hanged himself by creating a noose with his shirt. Then the agency’s director-general claimed he had used his socks, while Tawatchai’s relatives pointed out that the wound in the neck was small enough to indicate that a wire or rope was used.
Then an autopsy report showed that he had died of a ruptured liver, suggesting injury from a blunt instrument, as well as suffocation – clearly in contrast to DSI’s statements that he had hanged himself.
Mongkut Wattana Hospital director Rienthong Naenna then issued a statement saying the DSI had called the hospital saying the suspect had fainted. He also explained that the resuscitation measures used by medical professionals on Tawatachai could not have injured the liver because they were administering CPR on the heart and lungs, which are separated from the liver by the diaphragm. Other experts expressed similar doubts, saying medical professionals could not have ruptured the liver while conducting CPR.
Explanations provided so far appear to be questionable, making DSI’s claims unreliable, even though it does not have a reasonable motive for killing Tawatchai. DSI’s only job was to arrest him and bring him to justice. However, it is speculated that many people wanted to silence Tawatchai as he had signed illegal land-deed registration documents for more than 1,000 plots of public land valued at over Bt10 billion. If these plots were found to have been unlawfully registered, the land deeds would be revoked, resulting in huge losses to the illegal landowners.
He is survived by his wife – not officially married – and children. It is also estimated that he made at least Bt100 million in kickbacks from illegally registering land deeds.