Chalermchai death sentence upheld
Capital punishment for two of the ex-major's accomplices also stays
The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the death sentence of former Major Chalermchai Majchaklam and his two accomplices for conspiring in the grisly murder of then-Yasothon Governor Preena Lipattanaphan in March 2001.
The justices gave weight to the autopsy report, which said Preena died at about 5pm on March 4, 2001, after he was held face down on the bed of his hotel room, had his throat slit and was shot. The report corroborated testimony by Preena's girlfriend, Angkhanang Sunthornwipak.
Angkhanang said a group of two or three men - one of whom she identified as Chalermchai - broke into the Bangkok hotel room where she and Preena were staying. The men forced her to lie face down on a sofa, and she heard them gag Preena and shoot him with her handgun. The men let her go and gave her Preena's ring, which she pawned.
Hotel records confirmed that Chalermchai and his aides - sergeants Manit Srisa-ard and Suwat Khamngao - checked into rooms 4015 and 4017 of the Royal Pacific Hotel, almost opposite Preena's room, 4006. Other evidence included Chalermchai's sketch of the hotel rooms marked with the hotel staff's routines, and bloodstains from Preena found in the toilets of the men's hotel rooms, on Suwat's shoes and on the brake pedal of Chalermchai's Isuzu Trooper pickup.
After the ruling, the three defendants appeared despondent, and their family members burst into tears while clinging to them.
Chalermchai said he accepted the verdict and did not want to criticise it. He said he would ask his attorney to apply for a royal pardon.
"If people knew about the case's details, they'd know it's more complicated than the Cherry Ann Duncan murder case," he said.
His attorney, Pisal Wibulsilpa, said he would seek royal amnesty for his client through the prison's chief warden, because he had served well in the Army, while Manit and Suwat could also apply for royal pardons.
In August 2002, the Criminal Court convicted Angkhanang of embezzlement and carrying a firearm without a licence and sentenced her to three years and eight months in prison. The court also handed Chalermchai the death sentence but acquitted Manit and Suwat, due to a lack of evidence.
The Appeals Court in September 2004 upheld the judgements against Angkhanang and Chalermchai but said Manit and Suwat deserved capital punishment. The three men appealed to the Supreme Court, claiming they were innocent, because they did not know or have any conflict with Preena.