‘Uncle Engineer’ given suspended prison term, community service, over teenager killing

An engineer, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for murder by two lower courts, was given a suspended prison term and ordered to perform 30 hours of community service on Thursday by Thailand’s Supreme Court.

The fatal shooting, for which he was charged, occurred near the Ang Sila market, in Muang district of the eastern coastal province of Chon Buri, on February 4, 2017. Suthep Pochanasomboon used his pistol to shoot to death 17-year-old Nawaphol Poengpai, following a heated argument over double-parking, which had made it impossible for the older engineer to maneuver his car out of the tight space.

According to the court case file, Nawaphol and his friends refused to move his car. Both sides engaged in heated quarrel, but the group of youths eventually acquiesced and drove their van away.

Shortly afterward, the two sides met again on the road, not far away from the spot where they had argued. This time, the feud ended in tragedy, when the engineer pulled out his handgun and shot the 17-year-old youth dead.

Known as the “Uncle Engineer” case, the incident became headline news and a hot topic on social media, drawing widespread and mixed reactions from netizens, with most sympathizing with the elderly man, who was being seen as the victim of bullying.

In issuing its verdict, the Supreme Court found  56-year-old Suthep guilty of killing Nawaphol, because he shot the victim in the chest instead of firing the pistol in the air to scare the victim away.

The court ruled that the shooter had merely defended himself against threats from the victim and his friends, who had assaulted him during their first encounter.

The court had initially sentenced Mr. Suthep to five years in prison, but commuted the prison term to three years and four months, which was subsequently suspended for three years on the grounds that he had never served a term in prison before.

The court placed the man under probation for two years, ordered him to report to probation officials every three months and to perform community based social work for 30 hours. He was also fined 2,000 baht for carrying a weapon in public.

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