BANGKOK – It’s been nearly 5 years since Canadian National Michael Joseph Charles Karas was extradited from Vancouver, Canada to Thailand for the murder of 27-year-old Suwannee Ratanaprakorn in Pattaya, Chon Buri.
Apart from quarterly visits by embassy staff and a recent prison interview with Toronto Sun reporter Sam Cooley marks the first visitor Michael Karas has had since 2011, when he lost his 15-year battle at home against extradition to Thailand to face murder charges originally filed by police in 1996.
Now with a change in Canadian political parties Karas is now apparently eligible for repatriation, (foreign inmate transfer), allowing Canadians convicted of crimes abroad to serve their sentences in Canada.
â€œItâ€™s a good thing we got a new government. To me, it was the light at the end of the tunnel Karas told Cooley.
Canada’s Newly elected Liberals have a much more softening approach toward dealing with Canadians convicted and incarcerated abroad, of which are there are more than 1,000 globally.
Under the previous Conservative Government, policy tended to defer to the authority and jurisdiction of another nation, the Liberals have adopted a more rehabilitative role towards Canadian offenders abroad.
According to Karas, his prison file indicates heâ€™s been on â€œvery goodâ€ behavior during his five years inside.
But he still hasnâ€™t completely owned up to his role in the murder. When questioned, he first says he was in Thailand for a year before â€œmy girlfriend got killed.â€ But later on, he claims: â€œShe came at me and I snapped her neck.â€
To this day Karas maintains that he was wrongfully convicted of murder on the grounds that he thought he was admitting to guilt of manslaughter when he was finally hauled to Pattaya court in 2011.
Karas went to Thailand in the â€™90s and settled in the coastal city of Pattaya, known for its wild nightlife and high volume of expats. By then, he was already a wanted criminal in Canada. On arrival in Southeast Asia he assumed a new identity: Morgan Michael David.
After a few months of living in Pattaya, Karas moved in with 27 year-old Suwannee Ratanaprakorn, remembered for her long hair and distinctive eyebrows. She was a country girl who moved to the big city with hopes for a better life. They lived in a Room in a cheap Pattaya hotel before she went missing.
A day or two after Karas checked out of the hotel in the middle of the night, after being spotted coming and going from the hotel with luggage, police discovered Ratanaprakornâ€™s severed head and limbs in a nearby swamp.
Evidence taken from the scene, according to court documents in both Canada and Thailand, suggest the murder and dismemberment took place inside the roomâ€™s bathroom.
Karas is believed to have used an electric saw to remove the limbs and mutilate her face in hopes of hiding her identity. Police identified the body after locals recognized images taken of her eyebrows.
These days, Karas is excited after receiving the news of his approved transfer by Public Safety Canada.
â€œIâ€™ll be getting out, itâ€™ll be over,â€ he says, referring to the potential for an early release due to parole eligibility.
At least one practicing criminal lawyer in Canada agrees.
â€œHe could talk about the conditions he was in and it could resonate well with Canada’s parole board. They may frankly see that he did hard time,â€ says Paul Lewandowski, an Ottawa-based criminal lawyer and occasional commentator on criminal law.
Despite Karasâ€™ firm belief that heâ€™ll finally get out of jail, it might not be that easy. Lewandowski says the nature of foreign inmate transfers â€” and extradition cases in general â€” is that theyâ€™re almost always swayed by politics in one way or another.
â€œIf (Thailandâ€™s military rulers) really wanted to make a political stance, they wonâ€™t let him go to Canada. Thailand doesnâ€™t have to necessarily agree.â€
By Sam Cooley | Toronto Sun
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