Dead Cadet: Army Promises Swift End to Inquiry

Image: Meay P Tankayan / Facebook

BANGKOK — The investigation into a 19-year-old cadet’s academy death will be completed “soon,” military officials said Tuesday.

It’s been a week since the military convened an inquiry into Pakapong Tanyakan’s death, which has drawn widespread attention and suspicion of foul play, and an independent attempt to explain his death stalled out. While the top armed forces commander renewed his pledge for a swift process, a spokesman said there is no deadline.

“We want a little more time. We are not dragging our feet,” armed forces spokesman Nothapol Boonngam said. “We don’t want to put a limit on the time, but we want to complete it as soon as possible.”

Earlier today Chief of the Defense Forces Thanchaiyan Srisuwan told reporters he expected the inquiry to be done “soon.” The general did not give any timeframe.

Pakapong, a freshman at the prestigious Armed Forces Preparatory School, died from what the military described as “sudden heart failure” in October.

His family later realized Pakapong’s body was returned to them with several organs missing, raising public outcry and suspicion of mistreatment. Pakapong also noted in his diary he was subjected to beating at the academy.

In the wake of the widespread uproar, the military returned the organs to Pakapong’s parents and said they had been kept for medical examination. They also announced that an army-run investigation into the chain of events that led to the cadet’s demise.

Lt. Gen. Nothapol said more than 30 people have been questioned by the fact-finding committee, mostly his classmates at the academy.

“In the past week, they worked until 8 or 9pm,” Nothapol said. “Next week they will question more people who were involved.”

Deflections

Pakapong’s family had requested the Central Institute of Forensic Science, which operates independently from police and the military, to perform an autopsy on the dead cadet.

But any hope of a speedy answer was quashed when the institute announced Thursday, to much public ridicule, that it could not complete the autopsy because a routine chemical had somehow run out.

Pakapong’s family, which had been outspoken in its criticism, has not spoken publicly in over a week. Calls and messages seeking comment to them were not returned.

A Thursday article on Manager newspaper alleged the military had attempted to “lobby” the Tanyakans into silence.

Because the family had supported a hardline conservative movement led by Suthep Thaugsuban during the 2014 anti-government protests, the military asked two leading activists from Suthep’s group to talk them into accepting the army’s explanation of the events, the article said. It added that the Tanyakans were not moved.

Lt. Gen. Nothapol said he hasn’t heard anything about the alleged mediation.

“Maybe there was or there wasn’t, I don’t know,” the spokesman said.