As expected, Mor Yong or Suriyan Sujaritpalawong has died while in military custody. We say “expected” because his death was anticipated from the time that Police Major Prakrom Warunprapha, caught up in this latest lese majeste purge, died while in military custody, with the military junta claiming he committed suicide by hanging himself.
Update 1: The Nation reports that “Justice” Minister General Paiboon Koomchaya waited until Monday to announce Suriyan’s death, apparently late on Friday 6 November. He is said to have died at the prison hospital of “septicemia.” As with the death of Prakrom, a hasty autopsy has already been conducted. We suspect murder.
Update 2: The Bangkok Post reports that Vittaya Suriyawong, the director-general of the Corrections Department, issued a statement on the circumstances of Suriyan’s death.
The statement said at 9pm on Saturday guards on duty at the temporary prison at the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok where Suriyan was detained found him lying in his cell with laboured breathing….
By the time they took him to the Corrections Department hospital in Chatuchak district at 10.20pm, he did not respond and his pulse could not be detected. His pupils dilated by 4mm and did not respond to light.
Readers will recall that the same director dismissed earlier reports that Suriyan was ill. He said he was faking it.
The statement declares that:
The Institute of Forensic Medicine under the Police General Hospital, having performed an autopsy on him, established on Sunday the cause of death was “respiratory and blood circulation failures due to bloodstream infection…”.
The director states that Suriyan was already sick for two days: “he had high fever, coughed and was agitated on Thursday and Friday. The military medical unit gave him some pills and told him to rest before the guards found him unconscious.”
“Some pills”? Perhaps he was poisoned? Perhaps tortured? We will probably never know. What we do know is that his claims of military involvement in his case was exceptionally embarrassing and threatening for the junta. Who wanted him dead?
The rest of the report seems full of claims that seem unlikely to ever be verified:
“Doctors said some air-borne viruses could cause an acute respiratory failure and high-risk patients are the elderly, diabetic people and persons on steroid.
“In Suriyan’s case, it’s possible his immune system was weak as indicated by the Oct 22 x-ray results, which showed he had a fatty liver,” Mr Vittaya explained….
“Our assumption is he was infected by a germ that caused bloodstream infection and this led to the respiratory failure and quick death,” Mr Vittaya said.
Suriyan’s death has been expected, but now that it has happened suggests that the damage he was doing or might have done outweighed the risk of getting rid of him. We are guessing, but so is every other commentator. The military dictatorship will try to prevent speculation and cover up.
Update 3: An updated story at The Nation adds a little more to the story of the death in custody and on Suriyan. The Minister for “Justice” advises that a death certificate “has been issued.” The idea seems to be to get the cover up going as soon as possible. The Minister says they are “waiting for his relatives to reclaim the body.”
Suriyan’s Facebook page claims that “he was born Suriyan Ariyawongsopon in Trang province but changed his name in 2008 after the family name was bestowed by His Royal Highness the Crown Prince [Vajiralongkorn].”
As a famous astrologer, he “became a committee member of several social agencies, including the National Council on Social Welfare of Thailand and the Thai Buddhist Association of Thailand under Royal Patronage as well as in government agencies such as the Justice Ministry.”
The report states that “Mor Yong’s last public appearance, before his arrest on October 14, was when he co-chaired a meeting with PM’s Office Minister Panadda Disakul at the Public Relations Department on the ‘Bike for Dad’ event that will be held on December 11.”
Update 4: Social media reports are that Suriyan’s was quickly cremated on Monday, just hours after the announcement of his death. The cremation of those who die in custody means that no proper investigation can be conducted into the circumstances of the death.
Update 5: Khaosod has a story on Suriyan’s death. It states that its “story has been updated to reflect statements from officials regarding the timing of Suriyan’s death. He is said to have died on Saturday night.” The military regime is having trouble getting its story straight.
Update 6: The Bangkok Post has an updated report on the amazing revelations of 9 November, that backgrounds Suriyan and includes a table of the events in the lese majeste case and the two deaths of suspects in military custody. Gen Paiboon Kumchaya is quoted as “explaining” that Suriyan “was suffering from health problems and stress after his arrest. The suspect was taken to hospital once during his detention and medics were assigned to the prison.” As if to justify two deaths, the general states: “Several suspects had health conditions when they were detained. We don’t know which illnesses they suffered from. In this case he had a lot of stress…”. We will never know what caused the “stress.” Torture? Poison? Threats and intimidation?
Interestingly, the Post story includes a note on the last surviving suspect arrested in mid-October, Jirawong Wattanathewasilp. It says that “Jirawong will reportedly be taken to court on Thursday so authorities can apply for a third detention period.” Will he appear? Or is he “unwell” or worse?