Vigils Held for Dissident Judge Who Killed Himself

Portrait of judge Khanakorn Pianchana is displayed at a rally in Thammasat University on March 8, 2020.

BANGKOK — Dozens of protesters held a vigil on Sunday in memory of a judge who reportedly killed himself to protest alleged injustice in Thailand’s judicial system.

The protesters gathered at Thammasat University a day after Khanakorn Pianchana, 50, shot himself to death at his residence in Chiang Mai province. Khanakorn left a note saying he lost the will to live after he was placed under investigation for his previous suicide attempt back in October. Another rally was also held in Chiang Mai.

“I believe I will definitely be fired from the civil service, and the prosecution against me is just a beginning,” Khanakorn wrote in the letter, which he posted on his Facebook shortly before turning a handgun on himself. “Losing one’s beloved career and duty is losing one’s identity. It turns out I’ll end up as a criminal suspect myself.”

Portrait of judge Khanakorn Pianchana is displayed at a rally in Thammasat University on March 8, 2020.

He continued, “My physical and mental state cannot endure this. I am full of grief. My path in this life is over.”

Khanakorn ended the letter by posting his bank account number and asking his peers to donate money for his daughter’s education.

Police said the judge died from a gunshot wound to his heart.

Khanakorn was the same judge who shot himself in the chest in October inside a courtroom in Yala province, moments after acquitting five men of murder. In a written statement leaked to social media, Khanakorn said he was pressured by his supervisor to find the men guilty despite a lack of concrete evidence.

His claim was dismissed by senior court officials. Khanakorn was later transferred and placed under a disciplinary inquiry for his attempted suicide.

In the letter Khanakorn wrote prior to his death on Saturday, he maintained he wanted to draw public attention to alleged corruption in the court system.

“I’d like to insist to my friends and the Thai people that I did what I did out of pure intention,” the judge wrote. “I only want to bring about justice for the people, and I do not regret my action. I am proud to have been a part of a call for justice for the people.”

A rally in Chiang Mai University on March 8, 2020.