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Torture video puts brakes on police chief with taste for Ferraris

In 2014, the Bangkok Post reported he made a very public proposal to actress Pichanak “May” Sakakorn, getting down on one knee at the Millennium Hilton in front of her A-list celebrity friends. The marriage did not go ahead and he is now linked to a famous TV host, whose father is a senior police officer.

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Some of Thitisan’s substantial wealth came from auctioning hundreds of imported luxury cars seized by Thai customs. Until recently, police officers were paid “finder fees” for confiscating smuggled cars.

Investigators were due to submit their findings to the National Anti-Corruption Commission on Friday before deciding whether to forward the case to the state prosecutor.

Officers involved in the suffocation of Jeerapong Thanapat in an alleged attempt to extort about $US60,000 initially tried to resuscitate him before taking him to hospital and insisting he had collapsed from an amphetamine overdose. The video dispelled those claims.

Thitisan now stands accused of murder, abuse of power and other offences – all charges he denies.

Professor Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai academic now in exile and teaching at Kyoto University, Japan, said the case exposes “deep-rooted” corruption that has become normalised.

Poor salaries and benefits were partly to blame, he said. “This opened the door for the police to use their power to make more money for themselves.”

The well-connected officer was once at the heart of the opaque system of power networks that rule the south-east Asian nation, but the public, who have faced decades of extortion at the hands of the police appear to be running short of patience.

Chachavalpongpun said cries for police reform had been a key demand of recent mass pro-democracy protests. “Overall, it is about transparency, accountability and responsibility. So that’s why what happens inside the police fits in well with the public agenda of the protesters,” he said.

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