More mysteries and twists related to the armoury robbery case
Fourteen state witnesses who reversed their testimonies in a criminal case related to the raid of an army’s armoury in Narathiwat in 2004 against former Narathiwat MP Natmudin Uma are now facing a charge of giving false statements to the authorities.
Eleven of the 14 witnesses reported themselves to police enquiry officers at the Crime Suppression Division on June 10 to be formally charged with giving false statements to authorities in connection with Mr Natmudin case.
The other two witnesses, Mr Sukree Maming and Mr Abdulloh Arbukari, have been missing without traces after they were last seen at homes in Narathiwat on December 2, 2009. The third witness, Mr Abdulsomud Manu, who was under the witness protection programme of the Department of Special Investigation, has already been dead.
During police investigation, all the 14 witnesses testified against Mr Natmudin who was charged with insurrection and criminal assembly in connection with the armoury raid by suspected militants who got away with 413 guns, most of them M16 assault rifles, on January 4, 2004. The event marked the start of a new round war of insurgency by a new breed of hard-core militants.
They reversed their statements when testified before the court which eventually acquitted the ex-MP due to lack of evidences against him.
Mr Natmudin who is now contesting the election under the banner of Matubhum party of General Sonthin Boonyagalin showed up to give moral support to the 11 former state witnesses on June 10.
One of the former state witnesses, Mr Anupong Panthachayangkoon, a former tambon headman of Tambon Tohteng, was formerly charged for involvement in the armoury raid by the police but the public prosecutors dropped the charge against him after he agreed to turn prosecution witness. He was also charged with the murder of a police officer in Su-ngai Padi district of Narathiwat, but he was acquitted by the court.
Also missing without trace of persons in connection with the armoury robbery case was 25-year old Abdulloh Arbukari, a witness who reportedly saw the beating of some of the robbery suspects by authorities while they were held in custody. He was last seen in December two years ago while on his way home to celebrate the Harirayaw event.
But the most celebrated missing person case is that of Muslim lawyer Somchai Nilapaichit who acted as a defence lawyer for the armoury robbery suspects. He was last seen in March, 2004, and was thought to be already dead.
Then there was the case of Pol Maj Ngern Thongsook, former inspector attached to the Internal Security Operations Command, who was charged with four other police officers for the disappearance of lawyer Somchai. Ngern was found guilty by the Criminal Court. But while the case was still pending with the Appeals Court, the police officer who was on bail was reported to have gone missing in a river in Phitsanuloke’s Wat Bot district last September. On March 11 this year, he was acquitted in absentia by the Appeals Court.
Besides the charges against the 11 former state witnesses, they are also facing defamation suits lodged against them by Pol General Panupong Singhara na Ayudhya, the deputy national police chief in connection with a complaint of torture and illegal detention lodged to the National Counter Corruption Commission against the police officer by the witnesses.
The complaint was however dropped by the NCCC due to lack of evidence.
Cross Cultural Foundation, a non-governmental organization specializing in human right issues in the deep South, has recently issued a press release expressing serious concern about the defamation case lodged against some victims of police torture by senior police officers.
1 Mr Anupong Panthachayangkoon, a former tambon headman of Tambon Tohteng, Sughaipadi district Narathiwat province
2 Pol General Panupong Singhara na Ayudhya, the deputy national police chief