One skeleton identified; provincial court okays police doctor’s detention
A police doctor has been suspended from practice – and put in court custody – over suspected links to the murder of three people after three skeletons were found on his farm in Phetchaburi. Two of his suspected victims were a couple reported missing three years ago.
After his identity was revealed in the media last week, other stories about Dr Supat Laohawatthana’s brutality started emerging, mainly from his brother Suthep, with whom he has had a long dispute over property.
One story was told by a worker from Myanmar whose arm was forced into a corn-grinding machine and severed up to the elbow, allegedly on the order of Supat.
It has also been alleged that Supat has been holding this worker’s two young children in a safe house in Bangkok to ensure that the worker and his family continue working for him as enslaved labour. As for the three skeletons, Suthep alleged that Suphat shot the victims in the head after torturing them.
These details are said to be consistent with a police complaint lodged by Sawang Numjui, father of Samart, who disappeared with his wife Orasa Kerdsab in 2009. The couple, who previously worked for Supat and later bought land adjoining his ranch, were allegedly in dispute with him over boundary demarcation. Sawang, relying on scraps of clothing, identified one of the skeletons as that of his son.
For now, Supat faces charges of restraining people against their will, theft and possessing stolen items.
His request for early retirement, which would earn him the rank of a police major-general, has also been put on hold.
Human remains found on his farm have been sent to the Institute of Forensic Medicine. Initial tests show that the heads of two of the victims were pressed to the ground and shot several times, assistant police chief Pol Lt-General Jaramphorn Suramanee said.
“The gunshot wounds are close to each other indicating that the victim’s heads were held still. Otherwise the bullet holes would have been far apart because naturally a victim’s body or head will move once it is shot at,” he said.
FATHER IDENTIFIES MISSING SON
One body, identified as being male, shows no signs of torture, while another – the sex of which has yet to be determined – has two bullet holes in the skull. The third body, also of an undetermined sex, has three bullet holes in the skull.
Meanwhile, in defence of his statement implicating Supat, Suthep said he had no reason to put his own brother under fire, except that Supat was wrongly trying to put the blame on someone else.
Supat’s lawyer Pholthep Suwannawichian said Samart and Orasa had been arrested in a neighbouring country over drug-related charges and that Supat’s farm had been leased to someone else for more than a decade.
Supat was arrested on Saturday in Phetchaburi and escorted to the provincial court yesterday for an initial hearing about his detention. Sawang requested that the suspect not be allowed bail due to his personal connection with senior police investigators. The court heeded his request and ordered that he be held in police custody.
Meanwhile, a Senate committee yesterday questioned the police force’s lack of action over Sawang's complaint about his son and daughter-in-law going missing three years ago.
Nonthaburi police were also accused of doing little after learning that Samart’s vehicle was found in an abandoned home on Sept 15. They allegedly only took action after news about the missing couple and their car emerged in the media.
Senate Speaker Nikhom Wairathpanich read out an excerpt of the police statement given to Sawang after the missing vehicle was located: “Only the vehicle is located, but not the people who disappeared.”
Nikhom said: “I don’t know who the public should turn to in cases like this when there is enough evidence but no action is taken to take down bad guys.”
The Police General Hospital in Bangkok, where Supat works, has set up a committee to look into his alleged crimes. Hospital director Pol Lt-General Jongjate Owjatephong said Supat had not caused problems during his 25 years at the hospital. There had been no complaints or disciplinary action so far.
“What has happened is personal business and has nothing to do with his job as a physician. Whether he is involved in the issue depends on evidence,” he said.