Police and prison officials deny wrong-doing. Family members say they are awaiting results of an autopsy.
Kamneung “Kiao” of Tai Meuang, was imprisoned while awaiting trial on an attempted murder conspiracy charge. On July 7 he escaped from Phang-nga prison and remained at large for four days. Having changed his mind about his chances after escaping, he surrendered to police on the July 11 and was returned to the prison.
But on the night of the 21st, some time after midnight, police said he became ill and began vomiting blood. He was transferred to Phang-nga Hospital for treatment but was pronounced dead at 1.30 am.
Relatives who viewed the corpse said no marks of violence were evident but that considerable bleeding from mouth and nose were apparent. Kamneung’s remains were sent to Prince of Songkhla Medical Centre in Haad Yai for autopsy – a response to relatives who openly questioned the official version of events.
“I visited my son on Monday, when he went to court,” said Klong Polprick, Kamneung’s father. “He appeared to be in perfect health – strong. I think something quite strange must have happened for him to die this way.”
Kamneung’s brother, Weera “Hero” Polprick, is a member of the Tai Meuang Tambon Administration Organisation (OrBorTor).
At 2.30 pm on Sunday, Phang-nga Prison commandant Maj Ratakrit Jaijring, accompanied by members of the Phang-nga Town police Investigations Division staff, Weera, other relatives of the dead man, and the village chiefs of tambon Tai Meuang Moos 1 and 2, took a tour of the prison then talked to the press.
Said Maj Ratakrit, “After the suspect surrendered to police I gave orders – and the governor of Phang-nga ordered the same – that absolutely no physical violence be done to him.
“I ordered that he sleep in the hospital, to ensure no harm came to him, I ordered officials to take particular care of him and assigned a trustee to attend him closely.
“I can say for sure that Kamneung’s death did not come about because of mistreatment. But just to keep things out in the open, the prison has arranged that the body be sent to Prince of Songkhla Medical Centre Forensics Science Lab for examination as to cause of death.
“We have also invited relatives, local officials and the press to view inside our prison operations so they can decide for themselves whether he was treated correctly.”
Mrs Jatuporn Benjalertyanont, senior nurse and prison medical officer, said: “He was brought by officials to the hospital in a feverish state. A look at his records and at his temperature led me to suspect he was suffering from dengue fever or a bacterial disease, especially as, after escaping, he hid in the jungle.
“Thereafter he experienced high fever, was weak and lacked appetite. The doctor advised he should have a blood check. Then he complained of tightness in his chest and general malaise: his temperature was high, his pulse unusually fast and he began vomiting blood.
“We therefore sent him to Phang-nga Hospital, but Emergency Room staff said he was dead on arrival. A preliminary blood test indicated the cause of death was blood loss, or perhaps leptospirosis (black jaundice).”
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease common in tropical areas, and is contracted in humans by contact with the urine of infected animals – usually rats.
The incubation period is from four to 14 days in humans. The onset of the disease begins with flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, myalgia, intense headache).
This first phase then resolves, and the patient is briefly without symptoms till the second phase begins – characterised by meningitis, liver damage and renal failure.
Mis-diagnoses are reportedly frequent because of the disease’s varying symptoms and its two-fold nature.
“After looking around the medical facilities where my brother was treated,” said Montri Polprick, “and talking to other prisoners, I have no doubt at all about what happened. We’re just waiting for the results of the autopsy. If they show that he died of fever, the matter ends there and we’ll arrange for his funeral.”
It was not reported what arrangements the family is making in case autopsy results do not show Kamneung died of fever.