Sergeant Uthai Dechachiwat never even glanced as the father of Canadian backpacker Leo del Pinto as they sat on parallel benches two metres apart at Chiang Mai Provincial Court.

Five years eight months after Uthai gunned down 25-year-old Leo in Pai Uthai was at last being called to account. But he would not be there but for the doggedness of a British journalist and the meticulous work of Thailand’s Human Rights Commission.

Indeed the Chief of Police in Pai, Mae Hong Son Province, publicly insisted he was not going to let his man go down for the killing of a foreigner and his ‘troublesome girlfriend’.

And Uthai, while charged, was set free while witnesses in Pai were all too aware that testifying against the local policeman and on behalf of the foreigner had hazards. The decision to give him bail was a fatal one.

While local propaganda was portraying the local policeman as a helpful and considerate and ‘jai dee’ good hearted – he had an inner rage.  In an outburst he carried out an uncontrolled attack on his 18-year-old Thai bride whom he beat to death with piece of wood shortly after their honeymoon…and of course while on bail.

This week Sergeant Uthai paid the ultimate price thanks to the work of British journalist Andrew Drummond but much more to Dr. Surasee Kosolnavin, who was Thailand’s Commissioner for Human Rights at the time of Leo’s death.

“This case highlights a problem with our society, but unfortunately this happens in other societies too” said Dr. Surasee after Uthai was finally condemned to 62 years six months in jail – 37 years six months for the murder of Leo – to serve on top of the 25 years in jail he had already got for murdering his wife.

Despite the pressure to stay silent and not get involved there were witnesses who knew the truth and had the courage
to give testimony against the Pai Police.  Pictured here are two I met at the TNHRC offices in Bangkok

“I saw the newspaper reports (by Andrew Drummond in the Nation) and knew there was something wrong so I decided the TNHRC should act.”

Andrew Drummond travelled with a team from the Thai National Human Rights Commission which included lawyers (Surasee was himself a former Chief Prosecutor) and forensic experts.

Between them they discovered that, police were putting pressure on witnesses and trying to falsify evidence.
They put out stories that the foreigners were ne’er do wells; that they were involved in a violent lovers tiff and of course anybody who said otherwise should look out.

Lt. Colonel Sombat Panya approaching Carly Reisig add boyfriend outside court

They confirmed Uthai’s story that he gunned down Leo in self-defence – that Leo was above him and attacking as he fell and fired. Even the police chief Lt. Col. Sombat Panya gave demonstrations at the police station that Uthai’s gun had a hair trigger.

But forensic evidence showed that it was Leo was below Uthai when the shots were fired. He had his hands out as if to protect himself, or as Carly testified, was saying ‘Don’t shoot!’

AND Dr. Surasee’s team found four sound witnesses whose testimony totally discredited the police lies – and he even gave them safe housing near his home in Chiang Mai. Their contributions were vital.

Ernie del Pinto thanks Dr. and Mrs. Surasee Kosolnavin

The police propaganda was however partially successful, even up to today with foreign news agencies repeating the police line from previous reports, researched from the parotted police line in the Thai press, but Drummond’s consistent reports for Canada’s CBC and Calgary Herald  told the other side of the story and Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, was pressured to take a stronger interest.

Del Pinto had publicly complained about the Canadian government’s lack of action.


The Canadian Embassy monitored the trial, a difficult things to do at the best of times and officials has to make many trips because of the adjournments and failed appearances of witnesses. Meanwhile Andrew Drummond continued to publish their reports of its progress and police misdemeanours.

That progress was very slow, mainly because police on several occasions just did not turn up to testify on what had become a DSI – Department of Special Investigations case.

Leo and Clara del Pinto thanks
 the public prosecutor

Dr. Surasee, noting that even police headquarters in Bangkok was going to support Uthai had earlier succeeded in moving the case from police control.

This week as Consular officials took Ernie to see Uthai being sentenced, before taking him to Pai to see the spot where his son died, Ernie del Pinto, and Dr. Surasee Kosolnavin finally met up. Andrew Drummond filming for CBC recorded the occasion

Ernie del Pinto, Andrew Drummond,
Dr. and Mrs.Surasee Kosolnavin

“I have to thank you from the bottom of your heart,” Ernie told Dr. Surasee. ‘You stepped up. You really stepped up to this. I know nobody would be in jail for my son’s murder were it not for you.”

Dr.Surasee told him: “You should thank this man here.  He knows a lot and he knows what he is doing. You chose well.”

“This man pleaded guilty at the last minute to avoid the death sentence, just as he did when he murdered his wife,” said Ernie, who travelled from Calgary with his wife Clara and sister Madeline.

He added: “He knows the system. He has pulled my leg and my wife’s leg for five years now.

“But I have some satisfaction of knowing that now aged 43 he stands a good chance of dying in jail, and you know what? I hope he has a miserable time there.”


  1. This case could easily have gone the other way if it hadn't been for the unending and determined efforts of Andrew Drummond and Dr. Surasee Kosolnavin. I'm sure all readers on this site will want to thank you both for all your hard work and commitment in ensuring that Leo del Pinto had the right to due process of the law even though he was no longer around to defend himself.

  2. Just goes to show that not all Thais are into the "face saving" excercise as many Farangs are often so eager to quote.

    The end of a very sad and traumatic case at last, and hats off to Andrew Drummond and Dr. Surasee Kosolnavin for their determination in seeing justice done during which they exposed local police lies.

    Pai is world famous for being a beautiful province, its also a dangerous one both for Thais and Farangs.

    Lets hope this is one rotten apple that rots in jail for the rest of his miserable life.

    1. "Just goes to show that not all Thais are into the "face saving" excercise as many Farangs are often so eager to quote."

      Sadly, Inspector, that still leaves very few Thais who would do that, doesn't it?

      farangs are "eager to quote", as you put it, precisely because it is so rare.

    2. "Sadly, Inspector, that still leaves very few Thais who would do that, doesn't it"?

      "farangs are "OFTEN SO eager to quote", as you put it, precisely because it is so rare".

      Hmmm…not sure, but assuming you've conducted your own personal poll or you're privy to up to date "independant" results, why not share those results with us?

      The rest of the World must be absolutely perrrrrrrfect…discovered Utopia have you Matty?

      Assuming you actually live here? if the "LOS" is really so baddddddddddd, the choice as always is available for you to exit.

      I've heard soooooooo many times Mryanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam etc. etc. etc. are absolutely wonderful, heard it from the farangs who are…err… still living here, still here many years later that is.

      In spite of the blinkered views of some farangs residing in the villages of deepest Issan, the world here in "TIT" is changing changing slowly admittedly, possibly too slowly even for Thais (younger educated Thais), but changing it is.

      Yawnnnnn… in your case Matty old boy…case definitely closed!

    3. You've lost the plot, Clueless.

      It was YOU who said that "farangs are often so eager to quote". I was agreeing with you and you are absolutely right. You would be in a minority of about one if you think there are a significant number of Thais that would do what khun Surasee and khun Chakrit had done. Few people would need a poll or being "privy to independent results" (what a nonsensical and pedestrian remark) to claim that rather obvious fact.

      There are big problems here of which many are aware. Journalists such as AD are highlighting them actively. Neither he nor I would claim it is Utopia or, as you put it "perrrrrrfect" 'but that does not mean we will not stay here. He will make his own decision, as I will.

      The issues are serious ones. Your posts always suggest a bitterness towards Thailand and the Thais. I am not going to stoop to your Thaivisa type level of posting replies – this is a very different site – but I was tempted to make the observation that choosing the name "clueless" does seem to fit in with what the way you think of events.

    4. No bun fighting here "Andrea" and it's good to know "Matty Boy" is going to stick it out here.

      As far as my posts suggesting a "bitterness to Thailand" and God only knows "Thai Visa" etc. etc. goes…Matty appears to have lost the plot! (I'm seriously wondering if Matty's a member of TD now?).

      Anyway. I apologise unreservedly if my previous post ruffled Matty's feathers, keep your Umbrella up.

  3. Why you dont thank witness? Im chakrit eiamkachorn.. Yesterday i go to raming teahouse thapae road cm. Rainny make me wet.never take care .I never heard thank to me? I fight justic to leo. Same you

    1. Dear Chakrit: The meeting at the Raming Tea rooms was organised by the Canadian Embassy. They kept the itinerary to themselves and also the names of whom they were arranging to meet. But of course the family still invited us along at 2 pm. I have seen the schedule. It makes no mention of witnesses. But Dr. Surasee said one or two might be coming along.He was anxious that the witnesses be commended. Unfortunately the Embassy party moved on after about an hour and after I recorded Dr.Surasee's meeting with Ernie. I was not party to that decision. I personally had to leave to meet deadlines. This is unfortunate and I have reworked the story a little to recognise that there are indeed good and brave people out there willing to stand up for the truth. Thank you very much and I am confident that I can say that also on behalf of Ernie del Pinto and his family.

  4. Dr. Surasee was at pains to point out that one witness was the guitar playing son of a policeman and looking at Avatar I am guessing that must be you. So once again thank you Khun Chakrit. And Bless You.

  5. ไม่ต้องน้อยใจน้อง ฝรั่งทุกคนขอบคุณมาก ความยุติธรรมเป็นเรื่องยากสำหรับฝรั่งในประเทศไทย โดยเฉพาะเมื่อตำรวจเกี่ยวข้อง ประเทศไทยต้องการคนมากขึ้นเช่นเดียวกับคุณ คนไม่กลัวตำรวจคนที่สนับสนุนยุติธรรมที่เท่าเทียมกัน คิดถึงทำดีได้ดีและทุกอย่างจะ ok ในนามฝรั่งทุกคนขอขอบคุณสำหรับการเสียสละของคุณ

  6. I wonder what Carly Reisig is up to these days. Probably half a world away in Canada hiding behind a big man and in a state of self denial when it comes to the unfortunate events of Sunday January 6 2008 in Pai – Mae Hong Son – Thailand – when Leo Del Pinto – her totally loyal and true friend – selfishlessly gave up his very young life for her.

    1. What the hell? Why would she be "hiding behind a big man and in a state of self denial"? Perhaps that's what you might do in the same circumstance, Mr. Marshall, but as somebody who obviously doesn't know her what gives you the right to not only write her a new personality, but make that character weak, frail, and helpless? You do understand her friends and family will certainly read this, if not she herself, and you're ostensibly using your real name?

      Like, seriously, what the hell were you thinking?

  7. "The Canadian Embassy monitored the trial, a difficult things to do at the best of times and officials has to make many trips because of the adjournments and failed appearances of witnesses"

    Obviously a notice posted / written by Canadian Thai staffers…

    But to continue… so similar to most if not all Western Consulate staff based in Bangkok and not least dare I say the UK consulate staff holidaying at Wireless Road. Whom it's rumoured (unfairly?) are offhand rude overpaid, under worked inept useless lazy *****!

    The real problem is that ordinary hard working tax paying citizens are continually failing to grasp how hard their consulate staff work on their behalf.

    Try to bury that deep underlying feeling your tax payments are being wasted paying these gobbledygook speaking civil servants, they need your support, they have wives, boyfriends and who knows? possibly the occasional Mia Noi to support.

    "Working" a four and a half day week while having to fly around Thailand on expenses paid trips isn't easy in spite of what you may believe. I for one imagine being chauffeured to the airport and back in air conditioned limousines and having travel time accredited to leave entitlements helps a little but not as much as you might think.

    Imagine being separated from your wife / boyfriend (I'm not homophobic Andrea)in a luxury hotel alone and isolated with only your expense account to dream about.

    Worse than that is having to attend constant Bridge Parties, Tennis tournaments, Bowls matches even Croquet to mention but a few, not forgetting the constant energy sapping official Cocktail party's, they simply must attend.

    On a more serious note ALL tax paying citizens deserve more than being saddled with these nepotist nest feathering turds!

    To be fair and give credit where its due, but please remember the first hint of a problem when you're anywhere abroad, don't rely on one of these W*****S you're completely on your own! :-((

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