Thai police opened an internal investigation Monday after charges were dropped against the billionaire Red Bull heir in a fatal hit-and-run case as outrage boiled over a perceived culture of impunity for the rich.
Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, the grandson of the co-founder of energy drink giant Red Bull, was accused of killing a police officer when he crashed his Ferrari in Bangkok in 2012.
One of the heirs to the family’s multi-billion-dollar fortune, Vorayuth’s case received renewed public scrutiny after news on Friday that all charges against him had been dropped in June.
The public has latched onto “Boss” as an example of the kingdom’s ultra-rich apparently enjoying different standards, and have taken to social media to vent their anger.
Following a weekend of vitriol on Twitter which led to trending hashtags like #BoycottRedBull and #BossRedBull, the police spokesman announced a change of heart.
“Police General Jakthip Chaijinda has set up an investigation team,” said spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen.
The 15-day probe will “find the facts and show transparency and justice to everyone to see whether if the case followed police procedures,” he added.
Police initially defended the decision, saying the attorney-general’s office had sent them a letter in June informing them they were dropping the charges.
One of the charges of reckless driving causing death had several more years before the statute of limitations was set to expire.
But by Sunday afternoon, under pressure, the attorney-general’s office announced it would set up a committee to investigate its own decision.
Red Bull’s maker TCP Group distanced itself from Vorayuth in a rare public statement on Sunday, saying he has never assumed any role in the company’s daily operations.
Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat also announced that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha was “uneasy” about the decision to drop the charges, and has ordered all agencies involved to reinvestigate.
She added that the premier “confirms he has never helped nor interfered in the justice process”.
The investigation comes as Thailand is undergoing a burgeoning pro-democracy movement, with young Thais taking to the streets daily to protest against a government they see stacked with former military generals and royalist establishment.
Prominent senator Wanchai Sornsiri — who is seen as a pro-military establishment stalwart — took to Facebook to comment on Thais’ growing anger over issues big and small.
He said Vorayuth’s case would “explode at the same time that student protests are escalating” around the kingdom.
“It is the last straw and the fire has been lit,” he wrote.