Sittra Biabungkerd: Campaigning lawyer exposing crime and corruption in high places
Armed with legal expertise, Sittra Biabungkerd has jumped into several high-profile battles in recent weeks, striking blows that have seriously damaged his once-seemingly-invincible opponents.
Several senior policemen lost their posts – at least temporarily and possibly permanently – after their alleged wrongdoing came under Sittra’s radar.
But his impact on the world of politics is making the biggest headlines.
Democrat Party deputy leader Prinn Panitchpakdi and veteran politician Seksakol “Rambo Isan” Atthawong were shaken to the core after being targeted by this high-profile lawyer.
Sizzling hot cases
Seksakol, a fierce defender of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha and one of his close aides, has quit all his posts including PM’s Office vice-minister after feeling the heat from Sittra.
Early this month, Sittra released an audio clip which seemed to catch Seksakol disclosing his mishandling of government-lottery quota while in conversation with an associate.
Seksakol claimed the conversation was jokey in nature, but the pressure on him grew and he finally tendered his resignation.
Prinn, too, stepped down from all his posts – this time in the Democrat Party – after Sittra pointed fingers at him.
The lawyer is representing several women, including teenagers, who have accused the former Democrat high-flyer of sexually assaulting or harassing them.
Then, during his recent holiday to Phuket, Sittra rocked the island by exposing a nightspot for operating well beyond legal closing hours and without COVID-19 measures, disturbing local residents. He said authorities must be aware of the place but were likely bribed to turn a blind eye.
Soon after Sittra spoke up, five senior policemen at Patong Police Station were slapped with transfer orders.
The list of Sittra’s exposes runs very long, given that he has been practicing law only since 2004. Last year, he released an incriminating clip of rising star Pol Colonel Thitisan Utthanaphon suffocating a drug suspect to death during interrogation. At the time of the scandal, Thitisan was dating the daughter of the chief of Provincial Police Region 6.
While Sittra is now a legal high-flyer, his career has not been without controversy. When he represented an ex-policeman in a dispute over winning lottery tickets worth 30 million baht, those who believed the other party questioned his intentions.
Sittra was also arrested last year on charges of producing false evidence to defend an actress against drug offenses. He has denied the charge.
Sittra also stepped in for free to help Chaiphol “Uncle Phol” Wipha defend himself against claims that he killed his three-year-old niece in Mukdahan province. Then late last year, Sittra withdrew his services as evidence grew that Chaiphol – who attracted a large base of supporters – had a dark side. Police are still investigating him over the death of his niece.
This month, Sittra was also accused of acting on the orders of a political party in taking action against one of its rivals.
Sittra retorted: “If you have observed me long enough, you will realize that I have fought hard for all my clients as well people who seek my help – regardless of their financial or social status.
“I’ve risen to the challenges in their defense whether the opponents were ‘nobodies’ or national police chiefs.”
Born to a merchant family in Samut Sakhon, Sittra studied at Joseph Upatham School before moving to Nawaminthrachinuthit Satriwittaya Phutthamonthon School.
He then studied for degrees in law and political science at Ramkhamhaeng University. After graduating, he joined the Thai Bar’s Legal Studies Office and began his law career.
Sittra often turns up at merit-making events and poor communities to provide free counseling services under the Lawyers Meet People project. He has also joined forces with like-minded lawyers to lecture schoolchildren on how to avoid threats and stay out of trouble.
In 2016, he founded the “People’s Lawyer Team for Youth and Society Foundation”. That same year, he stepped in to help a couple fight off a policemen’s attempt to frame them for a crime.
With such an impressive profile, he has also become an influential figure himself. On Facebook alone, he has more than 2 million followers.
He has also been a familiar face on TV and other media. When he speaks, the Thai public listens.
“If I can speak up for people, I will. When I jump into big cases, it’s not for personal interest … I fight hard for justice and will keep doing so all my life,” this hot lawyer said.
He is now happily married, with his wife often spotted by his side.
By Thai PBS World’s General Desk