Renue Modrakhee (seated left), the mother of the dead private (inset), talks to reporters in front of his coffin at her house in Wiang Sa district, Surat Thani, on Saturday. (Photo by Supapong Chaolan)
The army chief has ordered a probe into the death of a 22-year-old private in the southern province of Surat Thani as his family suspects he was brutally beaten in a local army prison.
Two officers were transferred to pave the way for the investigation. They were Lt Thitikan Wechasit, acting governor of the prison of the 45th Military Circle, and Sgt Surachet Phrommat, a duty officer at the prison.
Army chief Gen Chalermchai Sittisat ordered the 45th Military Circle to conduct the investigation and promised severe punishment if any officer was found responsible for it, army spokesman Winthai Suvaree said on Sunday.
Col Winthai was referring to the report that Pvt Yutthakinant Boonniam succumbed to his wounds at a local hospital after being detained at the prison of the Vibhavadi Rangsit Camp under the military circle.
“Please have confidence. If it is concluded that any officer did this, he will surely face legal and disciplinary actions to the full extent,” the spokesman said.
The army chief would monitor the issue closely to ensure fairness, Col Winthai said.
In the meantime, a concerned army unit is taking good care of the family of the victim to ensure that all parties are fairly treated, the spokesman said.
According to earlier reports, Pvt Yutthakinant was jailed in the prison at the 45th Military Circle in Surat Thani for a breach of discipline. He was sent to a hospital on Friday and pronounced dead on Saturday morning.
Renu Modrakhee, his 40-year-old mother, said while she was seeing her son at the hospital, he told her he had been beaten in prison. Those were his last words, she said.
The mother told reporters at her house in Wiang Sa district on Saturday that she had lost contact with her son on Thursday, so she phoned his friends and they told her the story.
Then she went to the camp and learned that her son was assaulted and sent to the emergency unit of Surat Thani Hospital.
“I went to the hospital and saw my son with a swollen face and bruises all over his body. I was told then that he had been assaulted outside [the army camp] but I did not believe it. An autopsy found that the physical assault caused the kidneys to malfunction,” Mrs Renu said.
The family kept his body in a coffin at his house for religious rites and would not have it cremated until the investigation came up with a clear result, she said.
Before she had a chance to talk to her son at the hospital, Mrs Renu had reported to police in Muang district that her son had been attacked by a group of young men at Saeng Phet intersection in tambon Talad of Muang district the night of March 26. She stressed that this was not first-hand information and she had learned about it from someone else.
On Sunday, the mother and a private who is her son’s friend met local police for interrogation that lasted over two hours.
She told reporters that eyewitnesses were already under the protection of Maj Gen Wichai Thasanamonthian, commander of the 45th Military Circle.
The private who met the police on Sunday and whose name was withheld said Pvt Yutthakinant and another private had missed a morning assembly at the camp at 9am on March 27 and faced a three-day detention as the punishment.
Before entering the jail, Pvt Yutthakinant had no wounds, the witness said.
“Before he went to jail, Benz [the dead private’s nickname] said that if he had not returned after three days, I should tell his mother because Benz had an issue with a sergeant,” said the friend.
Maj Gen Wichai, chief of the 45th Military Circle, said on Sunday that he launched an investigation and transferred two army officers suspected of involvement in the matter to work at the 45th Military Circle to prevent tampering with witnesses and evidence.
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