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Friday, August 12, 2022

Former deputy minister of commerce in Thailand sentenced to death

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Thailand’s appeals court has sentenced a former deputy minister of commerce to death instead of an earlier life sentence for killing the judge’s brother

Banyin Tangpakorn, 58, who was previously found guilty of murdering Weerachai Sakuntaprasert, the elder brother of Judge Panida Sakuntaprasert, who handled his stock theft case, was sentenced to death on Feb. 4, 2020.

The trial court in December 2020 sentenced Banyin to life in prison for his confession in the murder case. The murder followed Virachai’s kidnapping, which was intended to force the judge to side with Banyin.

The Court of Appeals’ latest decision was in response to Judge Panida’s motion that Banyin and the other convicts in the same case confessed because they had no other choice because of the overwhelming evidence against them.

Another convict, 48-year-old Narongsak Pomchan, also faces the death penalty instead of life in prison. The sentences of four other convicts have been increased to life imprisonment.

On June 26, 2015, Banyin was driving and crashed into a roadside tree in Bangkok’s Suan Luang district. Chuwong Sethang, a billionaire contractor who was sitting in the front seat with him, was killed. Police later suspected that the accident might not have been an accident. It turned out that the car was travelling at 30 kilometres per hour at the time of the accident. An autopsy revealed that Chewong suffered injuries inconsistent with the accident, such as broken ribs and ligature marks on his neck.

The distance between the golf course they visited and Chuwong’s home was 20 kilometres. However, the period from the time they left the golf course to the time of the accident was two hours. Chuwong’s family suspected that he might have been killed elsewhere, and the collision might have been staged.

A look at Chuwong’s financial affairs raised even more suspicions. Ten days before the collapse, he had handed over 38 million baht worth of stock to a marketing officer at a brokerage company closed to Banyin. Another 228 million baht worth of stock was handed over to the caddie at the golf course. Evidence available at the time suggested that the shares may have been transferred using forged documents arranged by Banyin.

Prosecutors and the Chuwong family later charged Banyin with two counts of forgery and murder. The South Bangkok Criminal Court presided over by Judge Panida, heard the stock transfer case.

Judge Panida said she was threatened several times to dismiss the case. Fearing for her safety, she asked her brother Verachai to pick her up every day after work. In early February 2020, three or four men kidnapped Veerachai in front of the courthouse and pressured Panida to finally drop the case. Veerachai’s bruised body was later found in a river in Nakhonsavan. A suspect was subsequently detained who claimed that Banyin was behind the plot.

Banyin was a former two-time Pheu Thai deputy from Nakhonsawan and a Matchima Party list deputy previously. In 2000, he served as deputy minister of commerce for the district administrations.

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