Thai teen shooting fatality sparks self-defence row
Video from alleged killer’s lens goes viral
Viral video clips have generated a vigorous debate in Thailand about self-defence rights and who should be blamed in a deadly road rage incident involving a 50-year-old engineer who killed a teenager.
The clash between the engineer and a group of teenagers in Chon Buri province last Saturday culminated in 17-year-old being shot dead.
Police said engineer Suthep Pochanasomboon shot Nawapol Peungpai, in tambon Ang Sila of Muang district during a car parking dispute in the seaside area.
The youth, who was with friends travelling in two vehicles including a van, was shot in the chest and later died.
Mr Suthep, who was with his family, was arrested and charged with premeditated murder and illegal possession of a firearm in a public place. He was released on bail of 200,000 baht (US$5,704).
The dead youth’s companions claimed he was only helping others mediate the traffic dispute.
Later a video clip, apparently from the engineer’s vehicle camera, was posted showing the incident. Netizens, including several celebrities, have put forward an argument of self-defence in the case.
The clip shows the engineer stopped his vehicle to seek help from a rescue worker when a van of teenagers followed him and cut in front of his car. Youths in the van then flocked to his car.
A fierce argument followed, then the sounds of a fight, followed by a gunshot.
A man’s voice, believed to be Mr Suthep repeatedly says “he punched me” when a female, believed to be his wife asked “did you shoot him?”.
Another video clip posted yesterday apparently from the same vehicle camera shows the start of the argument before the shooting incident.
It shows the van double-parked, blocking in the man’s car.
The car driver and a woman sound angry with the way it was parked. The man angrily complains resulting in an argument.
Then a woman in the car says “take the gun out” and the man says “got it, let’s shoot them?”
Deputy national police spokesman Krisana Pattanacharoen said although the police have initially charged Mr Suthep with premeditated murder and illegal possession of a firearm, the charges may be changed later if police find more evidence.
The mother of the slain teen has been accused of giving conflicting statements about the shooting when she spoke to police investigators and the media. Pol Col Krisana said police may consider charging her for giving false statements if she is proved to have done so.
The woman told a TV programme that her late son “was a good boy” and he was shot and killed “simply because he was there to help his peers mediate with Mr Suthep”.
She also questioned why Mr Suthep was carrying a gun with him in the first place.
Pol Col Krisana, however, urged members of the public not to judge who was right or wrong in the case until the police investigation into the shooting is completed.
Dussadee Arayawuthi, deputy permanent secretary of the Justice Ministry, said he had been contacted by Mr Suthep who wanted to meet and discuss the possibility of requesting protection as he reportedly claimed he was being intimidated.
Charnchao Chaiyanukij, permanent secretary for justice, however, said there are a set of rules for requesting witness protection and Mr Suthep’s request will only be considered if it fits the criteria.
Normally, witness protection is provided only after an indictment, Mr Charnchao said.
In another development, Democrat Party deputy leader and legal expert, Nipit Intarasombat, also posted his opinions regarding the shooting case on Facebook.
To ensure justice for both sides, he said, no one should judge anyone until all the facts are compiled and presented.
If the shooter is found to have caused the dispute leading to the killing or if he is found to be a willing participant in the fight, his claim that the shooting was an act of self defence will then be unjustifiable, Mr Nipit said.
Where the gun was kept before it was used in the shooting “can become a game changer” in the investigation as it will be much different if it is revealed that Mr Suthep actually drew the gun from his lap, waist, or the car’s glove compartment.
He also warned that one should never base the term “legal self defence” on his or her own imagination.
There are certain facts legal experts normally take into account when considering what is self defence or over-reacting, he said.