Opinion: A rich Thai socialite just killed a pedestrian in a hit-and-run; the legal double standards are shocking

Meet Akarawin “Jimmy” Taechaubol, a young, prominent Thai businessman, socialite, millionaire heir to the JC Kevin Development real estate empire, and police captain working as a sub-inspector at the strategic division of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau.

On the morning of October 22, Akarawin struck his friend’s BMW into 49-year-old Udom Saengkaya, a lukchin (fishball) vendor who was on his way home from work.

Udom died on the spot, with his body faced down on the ground, head bloodied, and limbs broken. 

Akarawin fled the scene, leaving his friend there. He turned himself in the following afternoon at 4pm — over 13 hours after the incident — and accepted all charges against him.

Akarawin was charged with reckless driving, resulting in death, carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of 200,000 baht, and fleeing the scene of an accident, punishable by six months in jail and a 20,000 baht fine. 

He was released on bail on that same day with a fine of 100,000 baht, a vow that he will compensate for the victims’ family, and an alcohol and drug test that will take “weeks” to process, according to the police.

Khlong Tan police chief Col. Ruetee Pandum, was asked [Ed: We have now bolded, struckthrough, underlined, and italicized the previous link so people won’t miss it] whether Akarawin will ever face a prison sentence, reportedly laughed nervously and responded, “that’s up to the court.”

These will most likely be the only charges against him. Almost a week later, and it’s almost as if the case has been dropped, with hardly anyone or news media talking about it.

Getting away with murder

This is not the first, the fifth, nor the last time Thailand will see this happen. The culture of impunity is so glaringly obvious, yet so normalized, ignored, and celebrated even, by mostly those holding onto power.

We’ve seen it happen before, most recently and notoriously with the Red Bull heir case: eight years later, and Vorayuth Yoovidhya still hasn’t been held accountable for killing Wichian Klanprasert. His case was almost dropped back in July, if not for public outrage.

Let’s not allow this history to keep repeating itself in Thailand.

Akarawin Taechaubol, no matter the intention, family background, or wealth, should face the same consequences and prosecution within the Thai justice system. 

The fact that he was released on bail of 100,000 baht for killing a man while pro-democracy protesters sit in jail shows just how corrupt and broken the Thai justice system is in serving, protecting, and treating its citizens as equals within this country.

It’s shameful and embarrassing, really, and only further contributes to the immorality and greed that are so deeply embedded within the fabrics of Thai society.

It’s the system itself.

But it’s not just Akarawin’s money and connections that are the root of the issues here; it is the very system and culture in Thailand that continues to allow people like Akarawin to exploit and manipulate the vulnerable and even, when situations call for it, get away with murder.

Akarawin’s story, like Vorayuth, are merely symptoms of a disease that is far more problematic — and that is the Thai judiciary system.

This is partly why people are out on the streets right now.

This is why the new generation of Thais and Thai students refuse to accept the injustice any longer.

This is why Thailand hasn’t changed, and this is why Thailand needs to.

The privileged Thais, those in power, and people like Akarawin should not be put on a pedestal and made to feel that their lives are more important and worthy than others, merely because they have more in superficial and material gains. 

In fact, they should be condemned and shamed for lacking in their humanity and empathy.

If you needed any more reasons why millions of people are out on the streets demanding change in Thailand today, this is it.

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