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Thailand's Killer Cops - Pai Police Officer Kills Canadian Leo Del Pinto
Thailand's Killer Cops
I was reading the newspaper the other day, and I came across a story about a Phuket police officer that was having a few drinks in a local restaurant. Apparently an argument broke out, resulting in the officer firing 6 shots, hitting his target 3 times and leaving the other man with injuries to his legs and chest. Police officer Somchote Suksawat claimed that he and his friend were attacked by a group of 4 men, using bottles and sticks to beat the officer. The article seemed to indicate that this was an open and shut case, a drunken cop shoots up a restaurant, claims self defense, and no more questions need to be asked. It might seem highly unlikely that a group of unarmed men would attack an armed police officer, and one might wonder why an off duty police officer is allowed to carry a gun when he is out getting drunk?
Stories like this are not out of the ordinary in Thailand, where it seems that cops live outside the law, with no accountability for their actions. These stories are so common, that it would be impossible to include all of them in just 1 article, so I have decided to write a series of articles titled "Thailand's Killer Cops". My intention is to increase awareness of just how common these incidents are, as the more people talk about issues like this, the more difficult it is for corrupt cops and governments to cover them up.
Pai Police Officer Kills Canadian Leo Del Pinto
In January of 2008, 24 year old Canadian Leo Del Pinto from Calgary Alberta, was shot dead in Pai, his friend Carly Reisig was seriously wounded, but survived. The original reports from police and local media told a story of a couple of drunken backpackers that were causing a scene, and when police officer Uthai Dechawiwat intervened they attacked him. In the insueing struggle, the officer's gun fired accidentally, killing Leo and wounding Carly.
When the surviving Carly Reisig was interviewed by foreign media while in hospital in Chiang Mai, she had a much different story to tell. She told reporter Cindy Tilney that she had not been fighting with her friend Leo Del Pinto, in fact she had been fighting with her Thai boyfriend. She claimed that the attack from officer Uthai was unprovoked, he fired several times killing Leo, and then turned the gun on her. This was confirmed by Thailand’s Forensic Pathologist Dr. Porthip Rojanasund, who's investigation concluded that the police claim that the shots were fired upward, during a scuffle, was simple not possible. The investigation concluded that Leo Del Pinto was shot while on the ground.
Local residents in Pai refused to offer any eye-witness testimony that disputed the official police account of the events, in fact police officers had managed to collect a few statements from local residents that confirmed their story. A few days later reports surfaced claiming that police officers had intimidated witnesses at the scene, and Thai tourists that had witnessed the incident came forward, offering their version of the events, once returning to their hometown of Bangkok.
Police Sergeant Uthai Dechawiwat was eventually charged with the murder of Leo Del Pinto, and the attempted murder of Carly Reisig, however he was only detained in custody for a brief period and was subsequently released and returned to normal duties as a police officer. It has since been reported that officer Uthai has threatened witnesses, and intimated them, making it clear that anyone who testifies against him will suffer retribution.
The sad fact is, when you let people get away with murder, when you cover up the truth, you open the door for history to repeat itself. Sure enough, Sergeant Uthai was arrested in 2010 after his 18 year old wife was found bludgeoned to death. “She had been hit about the head with a piece of wood. Neighbours heard an argument at about the time of the incident. Manta Dechawiwat’s body was found by Sergeant Uthai’s 10 year old daughter from his previous marriage.”
In January of 2011, Sergeant Uthai pleaded guilty for the murder of his young wife, and has since been sentenced to 25 years. Dechachiwat has yet to face trial on charges of murdering Canadian backpacker Leo Del Pinto and the attempted murder of his friend Carly Reisig in 2008. Now the question remains, will the "killer cop" actually serve his time in prison, or will he enter through the front gate and slip out the back door, as is so common in Thailand. In any event, it doesn't restore much faith in the Thai justice system.
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