Timely move that could save lives

national April 17, 2014 00:00


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Foundation welcomes FBI's cooperation with police aimed at improving investigation into missing children case

WITH STUDIES by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation showing that 96 per cent of missing children are dead within 24 hours of abduction, current cooperation between the Royal Thai Police and the FBI with a view to improving Thai investigations into such cases has been hailed as a timely move that could save many young lives.
Ekkalak Lumchomkhae, head of the Mirror Foundation’s missing-persons centre, said: “It is good to apply theories and related sciences to rescue the children. 
“Between February 2013 and March 2014, Thailand saw five kids abducted, sexually abused and murdered – three of the cases having had ‘Nui’ as the prime suspect.” 
There are still no suspects in the other two incidents, he said. 
Nui was last month sentenced to life imprisonment for raping and killing a six-year-old girl in Bangkok last year. He is also believed to have abducted and killed many other young children.
His crime, which was made a case study by the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), did not just shed light on the country’s rising crimes against children, but also on the police’s investigations into such cases.
The police had been criticised for not taking up missing-child complaints sufficiently quickly, on the grounds that the law required the children to be missing for at least 24 hours.
However, the Royal Thai Police later instructed all police stations to take up missing-children cases without waiting for 24 hours to elapse. 
Another major problem stemming from investigations into such cases is that police are often unable to make any arrests after a child has been killed, which has caused the public to doubt their intelligence and competency because they seemed always to be several steps behind.
Ekkalak said his foundation had the names of 10 people suspected of having committed crimes against missing children, some of whom were repeat offenders and were about to be released from jail, while some were still at large after allegedly committing offences. 
There is an urgent need for the police to develop preventive measures to protect children, and for more police attention to missing-child cases, he stressed. 
Knowledge ‘should be shared’
Ekkalak also hopes that the knowledge gained from the FBI will not be centralised among a group of academic police officers, but passed on to related police units such as the Missing Person Management Centre – and to local policemen, who will be real operative agents on the ground. 
He said the modern investigation techniques that the FBI is passing on to Thai police should lead to a transformation of police work, as well as to better database construction that could lead to many more concrete preventive measures. 
Moreover, personnel changes following reshuffles or transfers should not interrupt police work on missing-child cases, he said. 
“I also hope that when a child goes missing, there will be an agency, a database and expert police officers to handle the case,” he added.
After the CIB’s request to study the Nui case was approved by National Police chief Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew, two agents from the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit were brought over from the United States this month to meet with assistant National Police chief Chaiyong Keeratikhachorn to kick-start the improvements. 
Training sessions
The FBI, besides providing advice about interrogation techniques and criminal profiling in cases including those involving serial killers and missing children, will also transfer knowledge and experience to Thai police in a series of training sessions, initially slated for April 25-30. 
“When the skills of the police are improved, they will be able to use the knowledge gained in probing missing-children cases on the existing database, and interrogate the persons suspected of abducting or abusing the children,” Chaiyong said. 
Police should be able to carry out both preventive and after-the-crime investigations, he added. 
Besides obtaining modern investigation knowledge, the training should be an eye-opener for Thai police officers to adjust their viewpoints and working methods to meet the international standard, so that the force is no longer tarnished by cases of excessive force or the arrest of scapegoats, he said.
CIB Division 6 deputy chief Pol Lt-Colonel Songrak Khunsri said the cooperation with the FBI comprised two parts: first, “learning by doing” sessions based on real criminal cases; and second, the implementation of theories including behavioural science into crime investigations and the handling of suspects. 
“We are looking at how to reduce risks against children in future and to prevent crimes by suppressing those with a tendency to commit crimes via a watch list, other checking methods or a special law to keep them away from children and schools,” he explained. 

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