[Malaysiakini] Pornthip pressured to bow out of Teoh Beng Hock's inquest
Renowned Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand will not be testifying at the Teoh Beng Hock inquest when it resumes hearing on April 20 citing “political pressure” from the Malaysian government.
Pornthip told Malaysiakini that she was “advised” by high-ranking officials from the Thai Justice Ministry - where she is director-general of the ministry's Central Institute of Forensic Science - not to go to Malaysia next week for the inquest.
She said the Justice Ministry had received information from the Thai Foreign Ministry that she may face problems should she go, including the possibility of being stopped from entering the country.
According to her, the Thai Foreign Ministry had received “signals” from the Malaysian government through “informal channels” suggesting that her presence at the inquest later this month would not be welcomed.
“It was conveyed to me by certain senior Thai government officials that there has been political pressure from certain Malaysian government circles to block my presence in court, so much so that it might interfere with my current important forensic mission in southern Thailand.”
Not allowed to enter Kelantan
Pornthip, who is to testify on her findings of Teoh's second post-mortem next Tuesday, said she was concerned that her involvement in the controversial inquest could impinge on her work in the three troubled southern Thailand provinces where thousands have died in a Muslim separatist insurgency.
Part of her on-going forensic work involved the need to go to Kelantan to investigate a case related to the killings in southern Thailand. According to Pornthip, she had tried to obtain permission to enter Kelantan in January this year.
bagan pinang by-election nomination 031009 pas supporter with teoh beng hock poster 03“But I was unable to do so after a 'signal' from the authorities forbidding me from crossing the Thai-Malaysian border,” she claimed.
Pornthip lamented that she is being forced to choose between the Teoh inquest and her forensic mission in southern Thailand.
“I have been committed to the forensic pathological science for a long time, and have always taken full responsibility for the missions that were assigned to me. It had been my intention to follow the inquest into the death of the late Teoh Beng Hock to the end,” said Pornthip.
However, she said that her involvement in the Teoh case has now apparently jeopardised her work in southern Thailand.
“Given that our well-intended assistance in the Teoh case has now turned into a political issue, I have no choice but to choose my work in south Thailand,” she said.
In 2004, Pornthip led the forensic team which investigated the infamous Tak Bai incident where 85 Muslim protesters had suffocated to death while being held in military trucks.
Her hands are tied
Being a Thai civil servant, she said her hands were tied.
azlanPornthip was requested to help in the Teoh inquest by the Selangor government and she is offering her expertise in a government-to-government arrangement between Bangkok and Shah Alam.
“If I was not a civil servant, I might decide to see this through to the very end. But in reality, I have an obligation to follow the Thai government's instruction.”
She expressed regret of having to decide not to testify.
“From my experience, sometimes there is a limit as to how far we can go to bring about justice,” decried the flamboyant forensic scientist who is famous for her multi-coloured frizzy hairdo.
The inquest, which began in August last year, has been tasked to look investigate Teoh's cause of death.
Teoh, the 30-year-old political secretary to Selangor executive councillor Ean Yong Hian Wah, had been summoned to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) office on the 14th floor of Plaza Masalam to be quizzed over irregularities in the disbursement of state funds on July 15, 2009.
He was found dead the following day on the fifth floor service corridor of the building.
Pornthip stands by her opinion
Pornthip said that she first sensed trouble when on Jan 1, a MACC officer lodged a police report against her for allegedly leaking Teoh's second post-mortem report.
Faced with the possibility of arrest on her arrival in Kuala Lumpur, she hinted that she might decline to testify. Following that, both the Malaysian attorney-general and police chief cleared her of any wrongdoing and assured her safety.
Pornthip had participated in the second post-mortem after Teoh's body was exhumed last November in the wake of her explosive testimony - based on photos taken from the first post-mortem - that the deceased could have been strangled before falling from the MACC building.
The second post-mortem was done by Dr Shahidan Md Noor, the head pathologist from the Sungai Buloh Hospital, in the presence of Pornthip, representing the Selangor government, and Dr Peter Venezis, the British pathologist hired by MACC.
Shahidan had since testified last month that based on the second post-mortem, it was not possible Teoh was strangled, while Venezis is to testify on April 26 and 27.
Asked about her views regarding the second post-mortem, she said: “All the forensic doctors involved conceded that there was a bruise around Teoh's neck, which was not mentioned in the first post-mortem until this was pointed out by me and my team.
“Each doctor (in the second post-mortem) has his or her own opinion regarding the cause of the bruise, and I respect their opinion. As for me, I stand by mine.”
Taken from Malaysiakini.