Impunity for the rich and famous leaves Thais outraged

Tue Sep 4, 2012 8:09am EDT
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By Martin Petty

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A dented silver Ferrari, a dead Thai policeman whose body was dragged for 200 meters under its wheels, a family driver ready to take the fall for the wealthy 27-year-old heir to the world-famous Red Bull energy drink empire.

This was the story splashed across the front pages in Thailand on Tuesday and a hot topic on web boards, where the common assumption was that a culture of impunity for the wealthy business and political elite would once again prevail.

Vorayuth Yoovidhya, a grandson of the late founder of Red Bull, billionaire Chaleo Yoovidhya, had initially fled the scene but later confessed to hitting the policeman, police said. He was released hours later on 500,000 baht ($16,000) bail.

Though Vorayuth has yet to appear in court, there seemed little faith among the public that justice would be served.

"Jail is only for the poor. The rich never get punished. Find a scapegoat," said one of a stream of comments posted on the popular Thai website,

Another on news site read: "He'll probably just get a suspended sentence. What's the cost of a life?"

Suspended jail terms do seem to be the norm for politically powerful or well-connected Thais.

In July, in the space of five days, two ruling party lawmakers and a former deputy prime minister were found guilty of defamation and received suspended sentences, while speaker of the senate Teeradej Meepien was adjudged to have illegally awarded himself monthly meeting allowances when he served as chief ombudsman. Teeradej won't be seeing a jail cell.   Continued...

Policemen examine a damaged Ferrari at the home of the late Red Bull founder Chaleo Yoovidhaya in Bangkok September 3, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer