Police in Thailand are dealing with a number of politically embarrassing incidents related to illegal casino operations.
On November 2, 34-year-old gambler Don Daengchantip died following a police raid on an illegal gambling den in the Huai Khwang district of Bangkok. Police said Daengchantip attempted to flee, forcing them to tackle him, and he died during the ensuing struggle.
An initial police autopsy claimed that Daengchantip had died of respiratory failure stemming from a pre-existing ischemic heart condition. But witnesses to the incident claimed that police had severely beat Daengchantip, including multiple officers kicking him repeatedly while he was on the ground.
Doubting the official police account, Daengchantip’s family commissioned an independent autopsy, which found that Daengchantip had suffered blunt force trauma, including a fractured skull. The family also produced medical certificates attesting to the fact that Daengchantip wasn’t suffering from heart disease.
Late last week, seven police officers were charged with fatal assault and transferred to administrative duties while the legal process unfolds. Believing that the officers should have been fired – or, at least, removed from the station to ensure an untainted investigation – Daengchantip’s family brought his body in a coffin to the police station on Monday afternoon to formally protest.
As if this wasn’t enough of a black eye, a different police station in Bangkok has been forced to transfer five top officers on suspicion that they were protecting the operators of an illegal gambling den.
On Friday, elements of the Thai army arrested 96 punters that were found gambling in an illegal casino run by a Cambodian national. A fact-finding committee has been convened to determine why the police seemed so disinterested in shutting down the casino, despite its existence being something of an open secret.
Thailand’s police and military have often found themselves on the opposite ends of illegal casino enforcement. Last December, an Army colonel was accused of attempting to convince a police raiding party to release their arrested suspects or the colonel warned he would use his connections to ensure the officers were transferred out of Phuket.
Thailand is one of only a handful of ASEAN nations that don’t permit any casinos on their soil, despite polls showing most residents would support legal casino gambling. This reluctance to regulate has led to nearly two-dozen casinos popping up just across the border in Cambodia and Laos, in which an estimated 80% of the clients are Thai.