BANGKOK — Nearly nine years after a wealthy teen killed nine people in a car crash, victims came forward Tuesday to say they have yet to receive an apology, much less compensation.
Orachorn “Praewa” Thephasadin Na Ayudhya was 16 when she drove her car into a Thammasat University van on Dec. 27, 2010, killing nine people. Since then, she’s become a symbol of the wealthy and powerful avoiding jail after committing serious crimes. Instead of time in prison, she was ordered to serve 138 hours of community service, which was only completed in 2016.
Now victims are saying that they haven’t even been compensated for the death of their relatives and injuries, even though the civil case against Praewa finally ended on May 8. It also emerged that Praewa’s family identified themselves as “an esteemed family in society” in a court argument to prolong the compensation dispute.
“I conceded to everything, did everything the court wanted. I was quiet for nine years, but I can’t take it anymore,” Warunyoo Ketchoo, a survivor of the crash, wrote on Twitter. “I know it was an accident, but it’s about what people have to do for each other after it occurred.”
Compensation was supposed to be paid within 30 days, but none of the victims have received any more than two months after the resolution of the case.
In a series of tweets posted today, Warunyoo said that Praewa’s legal representatives kept slashing down the agreed-upon compensation after the crash, which left Warunyoo with multiple broken bones. He was confined to a hospital bed for two months.
Warunyoo, who was 20 at the time of the accident, said the only time he ever spoke to Praewa was when she came to visit him in hospital.
“She came in a wheelchair and her mom did all the talking. Her mom told her to apologize, and she said ‘I’m sorry.’ Then she gave me some Baan Ayakan desserts and took a photo … the nurse told me that Praewa was walking but asked for a wheelchair at the ward,” he wrote.
Warunyoo then suffered years of medical expenses and pain. Court proceedings dragged on in the Criminal Court, Court of Appeals, then the Civil Court, with Praewa’s lawyer pushing for lower and lower compensation. In April 2017, total restitution was cut down from 30 million baht to 19.8 million baht for the nine families.
“[The lawyer] bargained like he was buying vegetables and fish … He argued that she was from the Thephasadin Na Ayudhya family which has done good for the country – it really says that in the documents,” wrote Warunyoo, who posted an image of court files as proof.
According to court documents, Praewa appears to have changed her name from Orachorn to Buabuchaa. She is 25 today. After her marriage in 2014 to former National Legislative Assembly member Sorawee Ratpitakteerada, she changed her name again to Rawinpirom Arunwong.
Even Praewa’s lawyer, Theerawut Arunwong, was absent at the last civil court hearing in May, according to Warunyoo.
In an interview with Thairath TV, four parents of the victims who perished in the crash confirmed that they have received no monetary compensation.
“Since then we’ve received not a single word from her, not even a phone call,” said Saran Ningwan, the father of Sudawadee Ningwan who died in the crash.
“Since December 27, 2010, we’ve received nothing, not even a friendly look or a smile from [Praewa] or any member of her family,” Chutima Ningwan, Sudawadee’s mother, added.
Thawin Chaotiang, the adoptive mother of a doctor who died in the crash, echoed that the defendant’s legal representatives were less than cordial.
“They spoke to me to the tune of, ‘You want some cash? Then keep fighting.’”
An image of Praewa texting next to her crashed car has become a symbol of the Thai justice system’s leniency, which seems to be reserved only for the wealthy and powerful.
Since the crash, Thailand’s seen several high-profile cases in which influential figures have managed to escape harsh punishment for alleged crimes.
An actress avoided jail time after crashing and killing a cop, businessman Jenphop Viraporn is out on bail for killing two students in a car crash, and a Red Bull heir skipped town after crashing into and killing a policeman in 2012.
A construction mogul is also out on bail after being sentenced to jail for bribery charges related to the killing of a black panther.
Update: The article has been updated with Praewa’s latest name and marital status.