By Ann Fordham (IDPC) and Somchai Homlaor (Cross Cultural Foundation) / Bangkok Post
The footage that went viral early last month showing local policemen at Muang Nakhon Sawan police station torturing Jirapong Thanaphiphat to death by covering his head with multiple layers of plastic bags was deeply shocking.
Not that police abuse is unheard of in the country, but perhaps because such atrocities are consistently denied and covered up. However, in this case there was nowhere to hide as the video was shared widely on social media and through news reports.
The viral nature of the post removed all possibility of denying that police are capable of acting outside their authority to not only commit extreme violence and murder, but also cover it up afterwards.
Jirapong was being held for a suspected drug offence and when he died, police instructed the hospital to report his cause of death as a drug overdose. However, the autopsy report released by the hospital verified that the cause of death was suffocation.
It is highly likely that the police assumed their attempted cover-up would work because the stigma related to drugs is so deeply entrenched in society that the deaths of people associated with the narcotics trade often go unquestioned. It brings to mind the death of Chaiyaphum Pasae, who after being arrested for an alleged drug offence was shot by military officers in a notorious incident in Chiang Mai province in 2017.