Thailand has detained several police officers after a viral video showing the alleged torture and death of a man in custody, a gruesome scene that has shocked the country after it leaked online.
Uproar spread across social media after the nearly 10-minute clip was first posted earlier this week. Dated August 5, the footage shows an officer wrapping a plastic bag around the drug suspect’s head and beating him as others hold him down and he shrieks in pain.
Handcuffed, he eventually slumps to the floor and stops moving, as officers appear to try and revive him. Investigators believe the man, whom the Bangkok Post identified as 24-year-old Jeerapong Thanapat, was being extorted. In the video, someone can be heard saying “I'm going to give you one last chance.”
The incident quickly drew comparisons with the 2020 murder of George Floyd that sparked protests over police brutality and racial injustice across America. One version of it has been viewed more than 500,000 times on YouTube.
Royal Thai Police Force spokesperson Maj. Gen. Yingyot Thepjamnong told local media on Tuesday that arrest warrants have been issued for seven police officers. Four suspects have been detained so far, according to reports. Police could not be immediately reached for additional comment.
At the center of the manhunt is Col. Thitisan “Chief Joe” Utthanaphol, a senior police official in Nakhon Sawan, the central Thailand city where the alleged death occurred.
He has reportedly been fired and the hashtag “ChiefJoe” was trending on Twitter in Thailand on Wednesday.
The footage could provide a rare challenge to what critics say is a culture of impunity among law enforcement and the wealthy in the Southeast Asian country.
“The recent torture and murder of a drug suspect in a police station sends a shockwave across the Thai society,” said Sunai Phasuk, senior Thailand researcher for Human Rights Watch.
“This isn’t just a problem of rogue officers, but a chronic lack of oversight and accountability in police work that allows serious abuses to happen again and again.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to a video circulating on social media that showed police apologizing to a relative. In fact, the video is from a separate case. We regret the error.