Assault Charge Filed Over Dead Cadet

Cadet Pakapong Tanyakan embraces his mother in a photo posted online Jan. 1. Image: Sukanya Tanyakan / Facebook

BANGKOK — Police said Monday they filed an assault charge against a classmate of a military cadet who died under suspicious circumstances.

The unidentified senior classmate reportedly abused Pakapong Tanyakan in an unsanctioned disciplinary punishment, or thamrong winai, two months before his October death, according to the officer in charge of the investigation. The cadet will be tried in a military court, Col. Pongchak Chaksurak said.

“It was an act of thamrong winai,” Pongchak said, using a military term for what is essentially hazing. “As for his name, I’d like to keep it undisclosed for now, because this is a sensitive case.”

Pongchak said the cadet assaulted Pakapong on Aug. 23. The family filed a complaint about the incident to police, and investigators later found facts that confirm the assault took place, he said.

However, he said the charge filed today is unrelated to the ongoing investigation into Pakapong’s death – which to date made no visible progress. Pongchak said police have yet to receive a full autopsy report from physicians – the same response given in December. Pongchak offered no deadline.

“We have no time frame. We have to wait for the physician’s’ report,” the police colonel said.

Pakapong died in October at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School. The military maintained the 18-year-old cadet died of sudden heart failure, but his family suspected he was subjected to mistreatment at the school.

The armed forces have a history of abuses committed against recruits and low-ranking soldiers resulting in injuries and deaths.

Damaged Organs

The family first raised suspicions after discovering Pakapong’s body had been returned to them with a number of vital organs missing, including his brain and heart.

Following outrage on social media, the army later said it had returned the organs to the family, and Pakapong’s body was cremated in a funerary rite in December.

But on Friday the army-run hospital in charge of inspecting the organs’ identity said they were too damaged to confirm if they really belonged to the dead cadet.

There was no immediate reaction from Pakapong’s family. His sister, Supicha Tanyakan – who regularly speaks to the media on behalf of the family – could not be reached for comment as of publication time.