By Lobsang DS Subirana
Bangkok, Jul 29 (efe-epa).- Thailand’s Prime Minister ordered a panel be set up Wednesday to probe the dropped charges against the heir of the multi-billion dollar Red Bull franchise, who stood accused of a hit-and-run that killed a policeman eight years ago in Bangkok.
Prayuth Chan-ocha said in a statement he had ordered the fact-finding panel be convened to investigate why charges were dropped Friday against Vorayuth Yoovidhya, 28, who was accused of killing Sgt. Maj. Wichian Klanprasert with his Ferrari following a night out in 2012.
“The inquiry panel […] has been set up today to verify the case,” Prayuth said following a Wednesday cabinet meeting, adding that his government would not interfere in proceedings but that the “case must be made clear to the public.”
Prayuth said the committee comprised 10 members from the justice ministry, the state council, the legal reform committee, the Thai bar council and the dean of the law faculties from three universities.
The prime minister added that there are an additional two parallel investigations being carried out to investigate the matter. The Attorney-General’s office is due to produce an initial report within a week from no and the police will submit its findings in about fortnight. The panel Prayuth set up Wednesday will take 30 days to produce a conclusive report.
Vorayuth’s incident became synonymous with the impunity the wealthy enjoy in Thailand after he was found living a jet-set life, entering and exiting the country at will and attending public events such as Formula One races more than four years after the incident, with the case at a standstill. The Red Bull heir had not attended any of the eight legal summonses since the incident, citing through his lawyer that he was either ill or away on business.
“I did not ignore the case and those problems must be solved. Justice must exist in Thai society for all without discrimination,” Prayuth said Wednesday when pressed about the matter.
Public outcry in 2017 followed an investigation by the Associated Press that revealed the extent of Vorayuth’s lavish lifestyle, prompting police to act by issuing an arrest warrant later that year.
But he was allowed to leave Thailand three days prior to this, with immigration officers powerless to stop the scion without a prosecutor’s request. He traveled to Singapore and Taiwan before his Thai passports were revoked, with his whereabouts unknown since. Interpol issued a Red Notice – the highest level – for Vorayuth’s arrest, but he remains on the run.
All charges against him had expired under the statute of limitations, except that for death from reckless driving, which was due to expire in 2027.
Vorayuth’s grandfather Chaleo founded Red Bull in the ‘80s, and was valued at a net worth of $5 billion when he died in 2012. EFE-EPA