Wrongfully imprisoned teacher vows to fight for truth

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Wrongfully convicted teacher Jomsap Saenmuangkhot is eagerly awaiting the day she is declared legally innocent by the court. (Photo by Pratuan Kajornwutthinan)

SAKON NAKHON – A teacher who spent 18 months in prison for a crime she did not commit is counting the days until she is legally declared innocent and the real culprit and officials involved held responsible for shattering her life.

“I am not thinking about 200 baht a day compensation. What I want now is for the truth to be unveiled and the officials involved in the case to accept responsibility,” Jomsap Saenmuangkhot, 54, said in an interview.

Ms Jomsap will receive roughly 108,000 baht from the Justice Ministry, about 200 baht a day, for the time she spent in a prison without having committed any crime.

But the money is not the issue. She is looking forward to clearing herself, to having her criminal record deleted and the court’s ruling officially negated. The court has set Monday, Jan 16, for the retrial of the case, when her crime will be expunged.

Mrs Jomsap was convicted, sentenced and jailed for three years and two months in Nakhon Phanom court on Sept 24, 2013 for alleged reckless driving causing the death of a man riding a bicycle in Renu Nakhon district in Nakhon Phanom on March 11, 2005. She was released on April 3, 2015 under a royal pardon, having been denied her freedom for about 18 months.

Her family sought help from the Legal Aid Centre for Debtors and Victims of Injustice, under the Justice Ministry. Officials examined the evidence and it turned out the driver involved in the accident that killed cyclist Luea Phorbamrung, 75, was a man – and he was driving a different vehicle.

The real suspect turned himself to police at Na Khon police station in Renu Nakhon on Nov 23, 2014, according to legal aid centre secretary-general Nithi Purikhup.

After all the evidence was collated and presented, the Nakhon Phanom court on Nov 10, 2016 ordered a retrial on the case and compensation for Mrs Jomsap, including returning her teaching career to her.

Mrs Jomsap said she had contacted the Education Ministry, asking to be reinstated, but was told the process would not start until her conviction was annulled by the court.

Mrs Jomsap said she had denied the charge from the beginning, as she was at home on the day of the fatal accident. Her pickup truck had the exact same number on its registration plate as the pickup actually involved in the accident — Bor Khor 56. The only difference was her plate was registered in Sakhon Nakhon, and the other one was issued in Mukdahan province.

Mrs Jomsap recalled the day she was falsely convicted, explaining how confused she was. She could not understand how this could be happening to her.

“The minute that I was taken from the court to the prison was like I was being buried alive. I cried at nights, I missed my family, my cousins and relatives, and my students,” she said.

“I was angry at all officials involving in the case, but dhamma helped cool me down,” she added.

At the end of the day, the former teacher hopes for an overhaul of police investigation procedures, so that other innocent people will not end up experiencing the same horrors she went through.

“Innocent people, like me, who were at home at the time of a crime could find themselves in prison,” she said.

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