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Ekkayuth's body found; theft motive disputed

Victim's lawyer says case political; 4th man sought

Mystery still surrounds the murder of businessman and government critic Ekkayuth Anchanbutr, whose body was found in the southern province of Phatthalung yesterday.

Questions regarding a motive for the murder remain unanswered, as observers and his lawyer say they're unconvinced by the alleged perpetrator's claim that he murdered Ekkayuth for his Bt5 million.

Ekkayuth's naked body was found buried in an orchard in Phatthalung's Muang district yesterday afternoon. His 25-year-old chauffeur Santiparb Pengduang, who has allegedly admitted to killing his employer for Bt5 million, and suspected accomplices Chavalit Wunchum, 23, and Thiwakorn Kuathong, 19, led police to the location where they had allegedly buried the body.

There were marks on the victim's neck showing he had been strangled, according to police. There were no traces of assault on other parts of his body.



The body, found about half a metre below ground level, had begun to decompose and police said the death occurred four to five days ago. Ekkayuth's family members identified the body, and it was sent to the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Bangkok for formal identification.

The digging up of the body was carried out in the presence of several reporters and photographers, as well as hundreds of local residents.

Police, meanwhile, would focus their investigation on theft as the main motive although they would also pay attention to other possible motives, according to Metropolitan Police commander Pol Lt-General Kamronwit Thoopkrajang. He said investigators would interrogate the three suspects further as they gave inconsistent details regarding certain matters, such as how they dealt with his clothes after he was killed. Some suspects said the clothes were thrown away and others said they were burnt, according to Kamronwit.

Police are still hunting for a fourth suspect, Santiparb's friend who was still on the run, Kamronwit said.

A police source from the South said that the investigation showed that Ekkayuth was strangled to death.

The Criminal Court yesterday endorsed arrest warrants against four people allegedly involved in the murder - Santiparb, Chavalit, Thiwakorn and Prakarn Songkhao, 24. They were charged with robbery and murder, illegal detention and concealment of a body.

Ekkayuth's lawyer Suwat Apaipak said yesterday he believed Santiparb was only a pawn in a plot to murder Ekkayuth. He said it was found that Santiparb had worked for a senior Army officer known for his mafia background.

The lawyer said he was not convinced money was the real motive for the murder.

"I think the real motive should have something to do with politics," he said.

Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said he also was not convinced that money was the real motive. He called on the police to deal with the case in a transparent and careful manner.

Shortly before his death, Ekkayuth posted on his Facebook page allegations of tax evasion and money laundering against certain politicians. He was also a staunch critic of ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra and the current government.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung said yesterday "there was nothing complex" about the case, adding that money was the real motive for the murder.

Meanwhile, Santiparb's father, Sergeant Itthipol Pengduang, allegedly confessed to his supervisors that his son gave him a sum of money taken from Ekkayuth and that he had put the money into the care of a relative in Songkhla, according to Army deputy spokesman Colonel Winthai Suwari.

He said Itthipol was now in the military's custody.








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