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Four high-profile figures who fled convictions

The former chief of the Tambon San Suek administration in Chon Buri, Somchai Khunpluem, who was rounded up yesterday, is one of two major political figures convicted of corruption to be arrested, while two are still at large.

Former health minister Rakkiat Sukthana was the first Thai minister to serve a jail term for corruption. He was sentenced to 15 years after being convicted of extorting Bt5 million in bribes from pharmaceutical companies in a drug-procurement scam.

Rakkiat eluded police for one year and one month before being nabbed on October 30, 2004 while jogging in a public park. He reportedly needed to exercise as he suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes. Although he attempted to disguise himself by placing a large artificial mole above his lip, people recognised him and tipped off police.

Rakkiat was released on October 29, 2009 after serving one third of his jail term. His time was reduced on grounds of good behaviour, for which he was classified in the best grade of prisoner. He was ordained and has remained in the monkhood since his release from prison.

Somchai fled two criminal convictions. The first was a corruption case in which he was sentenced to five years and four months in prison in connection with the purchase of land for a garbage dump in Pattaya municipality.

In another case, he was convicted of masterminding the murder of Prayoon Sithichok, a local leader in Chon Buri, and was sentenced to 28 years and four months in prison.

Former deputy interior minister Vatana Asavahame is still at large after being sentenced to 10 years in jail on August 18, 2008 following his conviction for abusing his authority in relation to the Klong Tan wastewater-treatment plant project. He was last seen in public on June 29, 2008 at the wedding of General Sonthi Boonyaratglin's son.

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra fled a two-year jail term in the Ratchadapisek land-purchase case after a court found him guilty of abuse of authority on October 21, 2008.


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