Death for Chaleo, Chit, Butr Supreme Court ruling brings curtain down on six-year trial
The Supreme Court ruled that King Ananda Mahidol had been assassinated at the Grand Palace on June 9, 1946 and found his private secretary Chaleo Patoomros and two pages, Chit Singhaseni and Butr Pathamasarin, guilty of involvement in the regicide. All three were sentenced to death and executed by firing squad at Bang Khwang Prison on February 17, 1955. They insisted on their innocence to the end.
The Criminal Court read the Supreme Court judgment before a crowd of over 300, who sat in the public section of the courthouse or squatted outside listening to the verdict being read. On learning of the sentence, Chaleo, who had been previously acquitted by the Criminal Court and the Appeals Court, slumped into his chair. The prosecution asserted that the three men, who were first charged in 1948, were part of a murky political conspiracy to influence the throne, although the actual killer was never identified.
The King had been found in his palace bed, dead from a single bullet. A lack of resolution to the shocking event had led to incessant rumour and stirred political instability in the years that followed.
Four months after the verdict, all three men were given a final breakfast of bread and coffee, which they left untouched. Before dawn, each prisoner was tied to a tall wooden cross with their arms fixed to the cross bar and their hands clasped in a traditional wai. In their hands were placed incense sticks, flowers and candles. The executioner fired a barrage from a sub machine gun at each condemned man’s heart. Chaleo was the first to be shot, followed by Chit. Butr survived the initial burst of 10 bullets but died from a second barrage.
Just before his execution, Chaleo reportedly held a 10-minute discussion with police chief Pol Lt Gen Phao Sriyanond.
Following the trial, the minister of interior, Vice Adm Sunawin Vivadh, told the Bangkok Post that he believed the Supreme Court had given a fair judgment and that he should not interfere with justice by requesting a royal pardon. Dozens of witnesses testified in the six-year trial. One hotly contested theory was that exiled former Premier Pridi Banomyong was somehow involved in the death of King Ananda. Others believed the King’s death could have been an accident or even suicide.