CHIANG RAI – Pol Lt Gen Poonsap Sapprasert, the regional chief has confirmed the surrender of a 22-year-old soldier, An army private has turned himself in to police to face charges in the shooting death of a driver at a checkpoint in Chiang Ra in the shooting death at a checkpoint in Mae Suai, Chiang Rai.
Pvt Wanchai Champa was accompanied by his boss, Col Worathep Bunya, who commands the 17th Infantry Regiment in Phayao, to report to Provincial Police Region 5 in Chiang Mai before he was handed over to Mae Suai police.
Pvt Wanchai faces four charges, including murdering Sornchai Sathitrakdamrong, 35, on the night of Jan 2 in Mae Suai district of Chiang Rai, after he failed to stop a car at a makeshift checkpoint at Mae Suai.
Sornchai was shot in the back of the head shortly after passing the checkpoint, losing control of his car which slammed into a hydro pole.
Mae Suai police arrested an assistant village chief Mr. Wutthichai Injai for the shooting however after pressure from his parents, the victims family and over a hundred villagers, Mae Suai police finally revealed a soldier was involved in the fatal shooting.
Mr Wutthichai, who was at the checkpoint with other local authorities admitted firing his 9mm handgun into the air, but denied shooting at the victims vehicle.
The case took a twist after an autopsy by forensic police showed Sornchai was shot by an M16 bullet, not a 9mm pistol. It later turned out that a number of soldiers, including Pvt Wanchai, were at the checkpoint on that night.
The 37th Military Court on Thursday issued an arrest warrant for the soldier, leading to his surrender. He was whisked away to Mae Suai after a brief interrogation at Provincial Police Region 5 headquarters.
The police did not parade him out in public as is often the practice.
Pol Lt Gen Poonsap Sapprasert, the regional chief, on Friday confirmed the surrender and said the soldier was not another scapegoat. “The real suspect has definitely been arrested,” he said.
The bullet killing the driver matched the M16 rifle of the soldier, he added.
Lawyer Songkan Atchariyasap, who helped the family of the victim, told a Channel 33 news program that evidence supplied by the family was sufficient to implicate the soldier.
Army chief Gen Chalermchai Sitthisad said the fatal shooting could have stemmed from a misunderstanding by the soldier.
He admitted he was surprised to learn that soldiers were helping local authorities man a village checkpoint. Their presence could be because of reports of drug trafficking in the area, he added.