A murder suspect heading to a court trial was shot dead in downtown Samut Sakhon's Muang district yesterday morning.
Police suspect he was killed in a “hush killing” to prevent him from revealing a murder mastermind, or he may have died over illegal activities or some personal conflict.
The 28-year-old suspect, Sutchadech Thabkrai, was on his way to testify in court about the killing of Mahachai anti-coal activist Thongnak Sawekjinda. He was shot dead in front of Tisco Bank, only 100 metres from the Muang Samut Sakhon police station.
It was reported Sutchadech’s killers might have been in the same pickup truck involved in the Thongnak murder.
Following the 11am shooting report, police found the body of Sutchadech, riddled with 10 gunshots to his head, face and upper body, in his Isuzu pickup truck. They collected 10 spent bullets from inside the vehicle.
Police investigation found that while Sutchadech was waiting for a green light at an intersection, a black Mitsubishi pickup truck stopped next to his and the gunmen opened fire. One jumped out to shoot him at close range before hopping back onto the truck which sped away on Mahachai Road towards Rama II Road.
Police are checking security cameras for images of the suspects, said Samut Sakhon police investigator Pol Colonel Chomchawin Purathananon.
Sutchadech was reportedly involved in the killing of Thongnak, working as the target identifier and procurer of a gun. Police announced the arrest of Sutchadech and three other men, including the gunman, in early August, 2011. They subsequently issued an arrest warrant for coal transport operator Thanayos Wongpim, who was accused as a hirer and later turned himself in.
The murder of Thongnak attracted wide publicity because of his conservation activities. Thongnak was fatally shot by two gunmen on a motorcycle in front of his house in Tha Sai subdistrict of Samut Sakhon’s Muang district and was pronounced dead at a hospital on July 28, 2011.
Police, as well as Thongnak’s wife Jomkwan Sawekjinda and many local people, suspect the shooting was motivated by Thongnak’s long protest against a coal transportation project in the sub-district.
Only days before his death,Thongnak led a road blockade protest which resulted in authorities announcing a temporary suspension of coal transportation in the area. However, the transportation went on secretly until Thongnak and other demonstrators ambushed the coal trucks and sent details to the police.
A day before his death, Thongnak went before the Administrative Court to testify and give more information against a coal company. His wife said he received many death threats.