Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Link to CBC story

Link to Globe and Mail story

From Andrew Drummond, Bangkok Criminal Court, October 15 2008

A Thai policeman accused of gunning down two Canadian backpacker s, killing one, was committed to prison in Bangkok today to face trial for the alleged murder.

Police Sergeant Uthai  Dechawiwat was taken to the Criminal Court in Bangkok and remanded in custody to Klong Prem Prison, Lard Yao, Bangkok, after being seized in north Thailand by officers of the Department of Special Investigation - Thailand's FBI.

The prosecutor opposed bail for Sergeant Dechawiwat  who was taken from Mae Hong Son province, and brought 450 miles south to Bangkok overnight.

Wearing a yellow sweat shirt Dechawiwat was then led to cells below the court and remanded to prison.

The moves follow a campaign led by Ernest Del Pinto, the father of Leo Del Pinto, 24,  from  Calgary, who was fatally gunned down in the small tourist town of Pai in northern Thailand.  Also shot in he same incident was his companion Carly Reisig, 24, from  Chilliwack, British Columbia.

After the shootings Dechawiwat was not even suspended from duty, but instead transferred out of Pai to a neighbouring village.

The Sergeant claimed he was acting in self defence, that Carly Reisig and Leo Del Pinto had attacked him and his gun went off as he fell backwards to the ground.

The local police gathered statements from a number of local witnesses which supported their version of events. Only one bullet was fired which hit both victims, police claimed.

But Thailand's National Commission on Human Rights decided to take up the case after two  young and independent Thai witnesses, who did not have to rely on local police for their livelihood, told a completely different version.

They said Thai pistol-whipped Ms. Reisig and shot her in the chest before turning his gun on Leo Del Pinto who had his hands in the air. He shot Del Pinto first in the abdomen and then in the head as he fell to the ground.

When Thailand's top forensic scientist Dr. Porn hip Rojanansun was called in she confirmed that the evidence did not fit the police story.  There were three bullets, one of which hit Ms. Reisig.

Del Pinto, she said, was shot in the head from above.

Thai Human Rights Commissioner Surasee Kosolnavin said today: 'We are aware of the concerns of the family and Canadian government and wish to see this trial conducted fairly.

'To do so we have had to protect witnesses and we now have two more witness against the policeman whose identity we have to keep a secret until they give evidence.

'They are under witness protection.

'It was decided to take the case out of the local province and bring it to Bangkok along with the Police Sergeant.  I have reported a senior policeman to the National Counter Corruption Commission for attempted intimidation.

'This case is now fully in the hands of the Public Prosecutor and the D.S.I.'


Leo Del Pinto's father Ernie Del Pinto said from Calgary: 'This is very good news. I feel happier the case is being held in Bangkok. Of course its not before time. I have had sleepless nights knowng this man has been allowed to go free and has been spotted several times by tourists in local bars.

'I will only get any real sense of closure when the case closes with thr right result.'


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