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Questions raised about activist's apparent suicide

SEVERAL FELLOW activists voiced scepticism over the purported suicide of Sutthi Atchasai on Wednesday, questioning the possiblity of a person killing himself based on the initial crime-scene investigation report about three bullets being shot from a pistol found in the late activist's hand. They also dismissed media reports suggesting that heavy debts were behind his death.

Sutthi will be cremated on Monday.

Somnuek Jongmeewasin, an independent researcher on environmental issues and part of a network of activists in the Eastern region, said Sutthi had reduced his role recently because he was bogged down with a large number of lawsuits stemming from his activism.

However, he said he had heard rumours about somebody wanting Sutthi dead, in the hope that several lawsuits involving him as plaintiff would end in their favour. Somnuek did not elaborate.

Sutthi, 38, was found dead with a gunshot wound in his pickup truck at his home in Rayong province on Wednesday. Local police, citing initial probe results, said there were three holes in the vehicle's windscreen that were apparently made by bullets shot from inside the vehicle.

Some news reports said Sutthi was pronounced dead in hospital, while many said he was found dead at the scene.

Campaign for autopsy planned

Sarayuth Sonraksa, a core member of an activism network in the East, said he was surprised that Sutthi's relatives had called it a suicide, adding that he and other fellow activists would soon begin campaigning for a detailed autopsy. He added that this campaign should also get the backing of several physicians who are part of his network as well as other activist groups.

"Yet it turns out that Sutthi's cremation has been scheduled for Monday," he pointed out.

He said a meeting between the National Human Rights Commission and Sutthi's family might not be very useful as the family had decided to put the death down to suicide and had not filed a petition questioning it.

"For activists and people fighting for causes, this death has elements of suspicion about it," he added.

Sarayuth said Sutthi had been let down several times when aggrieved parties decided to accept compensation from violators instead of continuing to push for them to be penalised.

"It's not Sutthi's way, but it certainly cannot be the reason for him to be killing himself either," he said.

Srisuwan Janya, chairman of the Stop Global Warming Association, said Sutthi's death certainly could not be put down to his debts. He also dismissed the claim that Sutthi had purportedly fired three shots to kill himself.

However, photographs circulated among the media show that Sutthi has an apparent bullet entry wound in his temple and an exit wound in the top of his head.

Srisuwan also defended Sutthi over allegations related to his reduced role, saying the late activist may have stopped campaigning openly against questionable industrial projects, but remained active in supporting others fighting for the same cause. Sutthi had put himself at risk by actively campaigning against irresponsible businesses and factories both in his home province of Rayong and elsewhere in the country, he added.


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