Fearful villagers demand neutral investigation in death of Lahu drug suspect
By The Nation
Photo Courtesy of the Indigenous Media Network (IMN)
Villagers of Ban Huay Krai Mai in Chiang Mai’s Wiang Haeng district on Thursday called for an immediate transfer of the plain-clothes police who were involved in the Tuesday killing of 50-year-old Lahu drug suspect Jajua Ja-or. The officers must be moved out of the area within 24 hours to make way for a transparent and fair investigation of what happened, they insisted.
In their statement calling for justice, the villagers cited an eyewitness who said that Jajua did not have a gun while riding pillion on another villager’s motorcycle when stopped by a police team. The police have claimed that Jajua was carrying a rifle and opened fire on officers, triggering a gunfight that left him dead.
Jajua was on his way to the farm when police tried to stop the bike to search the riders for drugs at around 5pm, said the witness.
After the eyewitness returned from fetching Jajua's relatives to the scene, they found that the Lahu man’s body had been moved to another spot and a gun was placed near him, the statement said. As Jajua’s mother ran towards her son’s body, she was pushed and kicked by an officer until she fell down and so several female bystanders had rushed to her aid, resulting in chaos, the witness said.
The statement from villagers charged that news reports then presented twisted facts, resulting in the public misunderstanding that angry villagers had surrounded, attacked and injured Pol Lt-Colonel Triloj Pundee, the deputy commander of Wiang Haeng police station, and Sergeant Chatchawan Wongharn, an Army unit commander in retaliation for the suspect’s killing.
Jajua was not involved in drug trafficking and did not have drugs in his possession as claimed, said the statement by villagers.
The police account, which was cited in a previous news report, claimed that the two officials were attacked by five or six men – against whom police will soon seek arrest warrants – and that Jajua was wanted on an arrest warrant issued by a Chiang Mai court on November 6, 2018.
The police killing of Jajua was viewed by the villagers as an overly violent reaction and has caused them to fear for their safety. They have made three demands. The first is an immediate transfer out of the area of plain-clothes policemen who were involved in the killing within 24 hours, so as to make way for a transparent and fair investigation of what happened. Second, an urgent investigation by a neutral party that had nothing to gain or lose in the matter, and third, provision of protection to the witness and Jajua’s family.
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