UPDATE (Thailand): Attacks on Director of Central Institute of Forensic Science over ‘5 bullet suicide’ case 


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-038-2006
ISSUES: Administration of justice,

[RE: UA-107-2005: THAILAND: Police lodge defamation charges against forensic scientist over “5 bullet suicide” case; UP-135-2005: THAILAND: Defamation case dropped but police insist on “5 bullet suicide”]
UP-038-2006: THAILAND: Attacks on Director of Central Institute of Forensic Science over ‘5 bullet suicide’ case

THAILAND: Extrajudicial killing; impunity; criminal defamation; challenges to the integrity of forensic science
Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding the lack of investigation in the controversial ‘5 bullet suicide’ case and the vulnerable situation the Director of the Central Institution of Forensic Science (CIFS), Dr Porntip Rojanasunan is in since the police filed the criminal defamation charges against her, which also affects the reputation of the CIFS and the work of this institute.

Although in our previous Urgent Appeal Update we were informed that the 5 police officers  involved in the ‘5 bullet suicide’ case had dropped their defamation charges against Dr. Porntip (please refer to UA-107-2005 and UP-135-2005) , we have recently been notified that the police have not dropped their charges and are still pursuing legal action against Dr. Porntip.  The five officers in question are the superintendent of Bang Kunthien District Police Station, Police Colonel Thirisak Suriwong, and Pol. Capt. Pittaya Singjanusong, Pol. Capt. Pramote Chanbunkaew, Pol. Sgt-Maj. Bunyang Muangkrachang and Pol. Sgt. Sutham Thepraksapan.

These defamation charges relate to the television interview that Dr. Porntip and Mr. Manit Suthaporn, deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Justice, gave on the iTV programme “Todrahat” on 18 June 2005.  Dr. Porntip and Mr. Manit commented on the ‘5 bullet suicide’ case countering the assertion made by the police that the death was a suicide, suggesting that it could be an extrajudicial killing.

The case concerned Mr. Sunthorn Wongdao who was found dead in Bang Yai district on 21 May 2004 after being surrounded by officers of the Bang Kunthien station.  They claimed that Mr. Sunthorn had committed suicide in a fatal attempt to avoid arrest.  However, contrary to what the Bang Kunthien police and the Office of Police Forensic Science (OPFS) have asserted, the CIFS has concluded that neither the condition of the victim’s body nor the crime scene suggest a suicide.  If the victim had four bullets through his lungs and one through his head, the only probable explanation for his death would be that another person had fired the bullets at close range.

Even though there are so many queries over the death of Mr. Sunthorn, the AHRC were disappointed to receive a letter, dated 12 January 2006, from the Ministry of Justice that the ‘5 bullet suicide’ case will not be transferred to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) for investigations.  The reason the Ministry has given for their refusal is because the case ‘is not a special case’.  Such an explanation is not sufficient to demonstrate that the case should not be further investigated especially since the evidence that counters the police’s assertions of suicide comes from well established, top forensic scientist in Thailand.


Thailand’s antiquated defamation laws are commonly used by powerful persons and officials to intimidate human rights defenders. The AHRC has previously raised concerns over the case of Supinya Klangnarong, who is being sued by a corporation whose divesting of investment funds is questionable.  The corporation is owned by the family of the prime minister, although the family is now trying to sell it (most recent update: UP-31-2005; see also: AS-38-2005). The trial of Supinya’s case is set for March 15. Such legal action by the 5 police officers is a blatant attempt at trying to silence Dr. Porntip and affect her efforts to bring transparency and improvement to forensic science in Thailand.

These defamation charges are only one incident in a string of attacks on the reputation of Dr. Porntip, the purpose of which is to undermine the CIFS as a whole. In a Thai newspaper article published on 15 December 2005, the Royal Thai Police and certain conservative medical professionals have alleged Dr. Porntip of corruption concerning the government funds to the CIFS to cover the cost of tsunami victim autopsies (for more information refer to The Nation: “Questions over autopsy funds”.) The police have further accused Dr. Porntip of failing to follow international standards on identifying the victims from the tsunami in 2004.   This is an attempt by the police to smear the reputation of Dr. Porntip and undermine the work of the CIFS.  This speaks to the resentment that the police have over the small number of independent agencies now operating in Thailand that are able to cast some light on the uncounted numbers of human rights violations they had been free to commit in earlier years.

Further mistrust over the work of Dr. Porntip can be seen in the 1999 case of MP Hangthong Thammawattana, who was found dead with a bullet through his head. The fist autopsy conducted by the police indicated that Hangthong had committed suicide.  But a second autopsy carried out by Dr. Porntip indicated that he was murdered. Hangthong’s brother, Noppadol was arrested and charged with murder.  However, in 2006, a third autopsy was conducted by University forensic physicians in Thailand which, once again agreed with the OPFS, stating that Hangthong had committed suicide (for more information refer to The Nation: “Third autopsy: Hangthong killed himself”). This case illustrates the conflict between Dr. Porntip, the Royal Thai Police and the Thai forensic experts. The latter two groups feel threatened by independent, external scrutiny of their work and the CIFS’s attempts to improve the standard of forensic science as a whole in Thailand.

A further obstacle that faces Dr. Porntip is the discrimination she experiences on a daily basis from her fellow colleagues.  Due to the fact that she is a vibrant, charismatic and powerful woman, the male dominated, and patriarchal system that represents many governmental agencies in Thailand, are not happy to be instructed by her or have Dr. Porntip as a colleague of the same ranking.

The CIFS is a newly established institute that offers independent forensic investigations into criminal cases.  However, ever since Dr. Porntip became director, the CIFS has been the subject of numerous criticisms that have gone beyond professional scrutiny and have become personal attacks on Dr. Porntip.  Such reactions from the Royal Thai Police and other conservative forensic scientists would undermine the CIFS and its authority.  This would jeopardize any attempts at developing and improving Forensic Science in Thailand.


Please write the relevant authorities listed below urging them to immediately intervene in this case.  The ‘5 bullet suicide’ case must be transferred to the DSI so that an independent and thorough investigation can take place to ascertain whether Mr. Sunthorn really committed suicide or not.  The Ministry of Justice must ensure that the Attorney General does not take up the defamation case against Mr. Manit and Dr. Porntip because she was merely doing her job as a forensic scientist and offering the police another perspective to investigate.  Moreover, the legal action by the Bang Kunthien police is an attempt to silence Dr. Porntip and undermine her authority as CIFS director.  The law should not be used for political purposes, therefore, the outdated defamation laws must be decriminalised.



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Dear ________________,
THAILAND: Legal and verbal attacks on Director of Central Institute of Forensic Science over ‘5 bullet suicide’ case

I am writing to voice my disappointment that the 5 Bang Kunthien police officers, Police Colonel Thirisak Suriwong, and Pol. Capt. Pittaya Singjanusong, Pol. Capt. Pramote Chanbunkaew, Pol. Sgt-Maj. Bunyang Muangkrachang and Pol. Sgt. Sutham Thepraksapan, who are still pressing criminal defamation charges against Mr. Manit Suthaporn, deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, and Dr. Porntip Rojanasunan, the acting director-general of the Central Institute of Forensic Science (CIFS). 

The charges relate to the ‘5 bullet suicide’ case in 2004 where a Mr. Sunthorn Wongdao was found with 4 bullet wounds in his lungs and one through his head.  The Bang Kunthien police claimed that Mr. Sunthorn had committed suicide.  However, during a television interview, Mr. Manit and Dr. Porntip felt that the evidence indicated Mr. Sunthorn was shot by someone else.  Immediately afterwards, the police pressed criminal defamation charges against the two interviewees. 

This action by the police is an obvious attempt to intimidate and silence Dr. Porntip, who has been striving for the development and improvement of forensic science in Thailand.  Due to the charismatic and upfront nature of Dr. Porntip and the fact that she has the power to change the future of forensic science including that of the Office of Police Forensic Science state (OPFS), the police have constantly criticized the work of Dr. Porntip and her team. 

The case also illustrates the power the Royal Thai Police enjoy because not only did they contest and ignore the opinion of Thailand’s top forensic scientist but they have abused their power and taken legal action against her.  Dr. Porntip was merely giving a well-informed professional opinion based on all the evidence.  If her professional opinions are undermined then this would affect the authority of the CIFS and jeopardize any future improvements and developments to forensic science in Thailand.

The ‘5 bullet suicide’ case speaks to the excesses of power that the Royal Thai Police continue to wield and the level of impunity that they enjoy. This is reinforced by a letter received by the Asian Human Rights Commission, dated 12 January 2006, from the Ministry of Justice that they would not refer the case to the DSI because it is not regarded as a ‘special case’.  I would like to know on what grounds the Ministry of Justice deems the ‘5 bullet suicide’ case not special enough.  Surely, if the opinion of a top forensic scientist is that the death was not suicide then the DSI has a duty to investigate. 

Therefore, I call on you to intervene immediately in this case.  The criminal defamation charges against Mr. Manit and Dr. Porntip must be withdrawn and the 5 police officers disciplined for the abuse of their positions of authority.  All government and independent agencies concerned with a better standard of forensic science and the attainment of justice within Thailand must support Dr. Porntip, especially since the onslaught of discrimination from the Royal Thai Police and conservative colleagues.  Finally, the Ministry of Justice must ensure the ‘5 bullet suicide’ case is transferred to the DSI for investigations because it involves probable police malpractice.  Finally, I ask that you consider the decriminalization of the outdated defamation laws. 

I look forward to your intervention in this matter.

Yours sincerely,



1. Pol. Gen. Chidchai Wanasatidya
Minister of Justice
Office of the Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Justice Building
22nd Floor Software Park Building,
Chaeng Wattana Road
Pakkred, Nonthaburi
Bangkok 11120
Tel: +662 502 6776/ 8223
Fax: +662 502 6699/ 6734 / 6884
Email: ommoj@moj.go.thchidchai@moj.go.th

2. Pol. Lt. Col. Dr Thaksin Shinawatra
Prime Minister
Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District
Bangkok 10300
Tel: +662 280 1404/ 3000
Fax: +662 282 8631/ 280 1589/ 629 8213
E-mail: thaksin@thaigov.go.thgovspkman@mozart.inet.co.th

3. Pol. Gen. Sombat Amonwiwat
Department of Special Investigation
Ministry of Justice Building, Software Park building 
Chaeng Wattana Road
Pakkred, Nonthaburi
Bangkok 11120
Fax: +66 2 913 7777
Email: dir.gen@sid.go.th

4. Mr Pachara Yutidhammadamrong 
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
Lukmuang Building
Nahuppei Road 
Prabraromrachawang, Pranakorn 
Bangkok 10200
Tel: +662 224 1563/ 222 8121-30
Fax: +662 224 0162/ 1448/ 221 0858
E-mail: ag@ago.go.thoag@ago.go.th 

5. Professor Saneh Chamarik
National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
422 Phya Thai Road
Pathurn Wan District
Bangkok 10300
Fax: +66 2 219 2940
Email: commission@nhrc.or.th

6. Mr. Philip Alston 
Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions 
Atten: Lydie Ventre 
Room 3-016, c/o OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9155
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (general)
Email: lventre@ohchr.org

7. Ms. Hina Jilani
Special Representative of the Secretary General for human rights defenders
Attn: Melinda Ching Simon 
Room 1-040, c/o OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 93 88
E-mail: MChingSimon@ohchr.org

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ahrchk@ahrchk.org)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-038-2006
Countries : Thailand,
Issues : Administration of justice,