|This article is missing information about the subject's investigatory role in the deaths of Jenjira Ploy-angunsri and Hangthong Thammawatthana, and ethical and professional criticisms. (February 2010)|
BP MPCh MWM
December 21, 1955
Khunying Pornthip Rojanasunand, also spelled Porntip Rojanasunan, M.D. (Thai: พรทิพย์ โรจนสุนันท์; RTGS: Phonthip Rotchanasunan; born 21 December 1955) is a Thai forensic pathologist, author, human rights activist, media personality, and cancer survivor.
During the Thaksin Shinawatra government, she repeatedly publicly accused the police of abuses. During Thaksin's anti-drug campaign in early 2003, during which more than 2,500 people were killed in what most non-government observers cited as extrajudicial killings, Pornthip claimed that some of these deaths were caused by police.
Pornthip was a vocal supporter of the GT200 "bomb-detector," a device that has been called fraudulent by the US government. She has used the device to "detect" explosives and dead bodies in several high-profile investigations.
After graduation from the Faculty of Medicine, Mahidol University, in 1979, Pornthip became a medical officer in the Ministry of Public Health in the next year. She held several positions in the Ministry, all dealing with pathology. In 2001, Pornthip was transferred to the Ministry of Justice to concurrently hold the positions of the Director of the Medical Division at the Central Youth Detention Centre and the Ministerial Spokesperson.
She then served as Deputy Director (9th Class Administrative Officer) of the Central Institute of Forensic Science, Ministry of Justice, since 2003, and was promoted to Director (10th Class Administrative Officer) by Samak Sundaravej in 2008.
Pornthip's four-year term as CIFS Director expired in April 2012, and her term was extended for one year until April 2013. Yingluck Shinawatra's Council of Ministers decided not to give any further extension and removed her from the office in May 2013. Pornthip was given the position of Inspector General of the Ministry of Justice instead.
The removal came immediately and without Pornthip's knowledge while she was carrying out official functions in the People's Republic of China. Pornthip herself believed that the removal was motivated by politics, saying that some politicians might have been upset with her work. A certain number of experts also remarked that the removal was politically influenced, citing Pornthip's conflicts with the Royal Thai Police which cause her and her team to be barred from working in the central region and turning to work in the southern region instead.
In the wake of the murder of Akeyuth Anchanbutr, an outspoken critic of Yingluck's government, in June 2013; Pornthip was asked by the public to examine the case but she said she has no authority to deal with cases any further. When asked about her duties as Inspector General, she answered: "only reviewing official papers".
In the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, Pornthip took charge of the effort to identify victims of the tsunami in the Phang Nga region. She and her team were widely praised for their hard work and dedication, but on January 13, 2005 Police General Nopadol Somboonsab complained that the police's identification centre in Phuket should have charge of all identification operations. Pornthip attributed the intervention to Nopadol's supposed personal vendetta against her. Nopadol was ultimately successful, and the Phang Nga operation was closed down on February 3, 2005. Her life story and her work in Phang Nga were documented in the 2004 National Geographic documentary Crime Scene Bangkok.
In October 2009, she concluded that Malaysian Democratic Action Party employee Teoh Beng Hock, who had been detained by the Malaysian federal Government's Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission had an 80% probability of having been being murdered.
In April 2010, she was appointed to the Center for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation or CRES (previously known as the Center for the Administration of Public Order), a military organization charged with maintaining peace and order within Bangkok and the surrounding provinces during the massive anti-government protests in 2010. Dozens of protestors were killed and thousands injured in the CRES-ordered crackdown.
Pornthip's autobiography, which details her life and most prominent cases, has been translated into English and is under editing for publication. In the book, Pornthip reiterates problems with state authorities in obtaining justice for those subject to injustice, a theme carried throughout the book.
GT200 "bomb detectors"
Pornthip was a vocal and sustained supporter of the GT200, a "remote substance detector" that Pornthip and the UK manufacturer claimed could detect from a distance various substances including explosives and dead bodies. Several nations have found the devices to be fraudulent.
2008 clashes between police and the Peoples Alliance for Democracy resulted in one death and several serious injuries, but much confusion as to whether the injuries were caused by police tear gas grenades or improvised explosive devices carried by the protesters. Pornthip used a GT200 device to conclude that the protester injuries were not caused by explosives and concluded that tear gas grenades caused the injuries, leading to the removal from office of the national police chief. Queen Sirikit later attended the funeral of the fatality.
In the early months of the Democrat-led government of Abhisit Vejjajiva, western news agencies broke the news that up to 1,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar had been captured by the Thai Navy, beaten, then towed out to sea without engines or navigational aids and with little food and water. The scandal and subsequent government cover-up sparked global criticism of the Thai military and Abhisit. The Thai military asked Pornthip to investigate some refugee boats that had landed on Thailand's Andaman coast. Pornthip found "substances and chemicals found that can be used in explosives" in one of the boats, leading the military to link the refugees to Islamic insurgency in the South of Thailand. She did not reveal what devices or techniques she had used to detect the substances.
Large protests against the Democrat-led government were held in Bangkok in 2009, prompting a violent crackdown. Rumors of widespread killings were denied by the government, which pointed to the lack of bodies. When shipping containers rumored to be filled with skeletons were found sunken off several coastal areas, Pornthip was assigned to help with the forensics. She suggested that rather than opening up the containers, GT200 bomb detectors using dead body "sensor cards" should be used.
When news of the fraudulent nature of the GT200 devices became public in 2010, Pornthip defended the use of the devices, even if they were proven ineffective. She noted, “I do not feel embarrassed if the bomb detector is proven ineffective. Personally, I have never handled the device myself. But my people have used it and it is accurate every time. Long long time ago, people believed that the Earth is flat and anyone who said otherwise faced execution. Things which are not visible does not necessarily mean they do not exist.”
A media personality and the most famous pathologist in Thailand, Pornthip often appears on television sporting her unorthodox style: punk-rock hair dyed purplish red, eccentric clothing, and glittery eye makeup, and platform shoes.
- People's Alliance for Democracy
- Thaksin Shinawatra
- Democrat Party (Thailand)
- Abhisit Vejjajiva
- Pornthip using the GT200 device in Southern Thailand
- Thai Tsunami Help — People
- A short bio of Dr. Pornthip Rojanasunand
- BBC broadcast (My World - Thailand's Dr. Death Episode 6)
- Who's Who page for Pornthip Rojanasunand
- "Thai queen weighs in with anti-govt protesters". Reuters. 2008, 13 Oct. Retrieved 2011, 2 September.
- "Being a woman has helped me survive my job". AFP. December 6, 2007. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
- Krausz, Tibor (November 1, 2009). "This Thai crime investigator is no friend to the 'big shots'". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
- TANG, ALISA (February 19, 2003). "Leading forensics expert blames drug killings on Thai police". AP Worldstream. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
- Banks, Gordon (2005), Test Report: The Detection Capability of the Sniffex Handheld Explosives Detector, US Navy Sea Systems Command: Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division, "The SNIFFEX handheld explosives detector does not work. The vendor failed to make good on any guarantee of the device's performance and provided no possible reason as to why the SNIFFEX was unable to perform as marketed." Also available from .
- "หมอพรทิพย์ โรจนสุนันท์ "คุณหญิง" หมื่นศพ" [Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand, the Lady over the Dead] (in Thai). Positioning Magazine. 2007-03-16.
- "ประกาศสำนักนายกรัฐมนตรี เรื่อง แต่งตั้งข้าราชการพลเรือน ลงวันที่ 2 พฤษภาคม 2551" [Announcement of the Office of the Prime Minister, Re: Appointment of Civil Officer, dated 2 May 2008]. Government Gazette 125 (Special D): 49. 2008-06-06. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
- "Porntip replaced as CIFS chief". Bangkok Post. 2013-05-21. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
- "ครม.เด้งหมอพรทิพย์ พ้นผอ.นิติวิทย์ ส่งเข้ากรุผู้ตรวจฯ ยุติธรรม" [Cabinet removes Dr Pornthip from office of CIFS Director to office of MOJ Inspector General] (in Thai). MThai. 2013-05-21. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
- "เด้ง "หมอพรทิพย์" พ้น ผอ.นิติวิทยาศาสตร์" [Dr Pornthip immediately removed from CIFS] (in Thai). Manager. 2013-05-21. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
- "มติ ครม. เด้งหมอพรทิพย์ เป็นผู้ตรวจ ยธ." [Cabinet resolution: Dr Pornthip immediately removed to office of MOJ Inspector General] (in Thai). PostToday. 2013-05-21. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
- "เผยเบื้องลึกครม.เด้ง'หมอพรทิพย์'" [Background of Dr Pornthip's immediate dismissal]. Kom Chad Luek. 2013-05-22. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
- "Porntip dismissed as CIFS director-general". Bangkok Post. 2013-05-22. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
- "หมอพรทิพย์ติงเก็บหลักฐานศพ "เอกยุทธ" รวบรัด" [Dr Pornthip's objection: Collection of evidence in Akeyuth's murder case was carelessly done] (in Thai). Manager. 2013-06-13. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
- O'Donnell, Lynne (January 5, 2005). "Devoted Doctor Takes On Her Toughest Challenge: She's Trying To ID Thousands of Victims". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- "VICTIM IDENTIFICATION: Compromise reached over forensic task". The Nation. 16 January 2005. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
- "Unidentified Western bodies to be moved". The Nation. 2005-01-25.
- Crime Scene Bangkok (2004) at CableReady.net
- "Carradine Death 'Erotic Asphyxiation'". Bangkok Post. June 6, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- "Teoh's death 80% homicide: Thai forensics expert". MalaysiaKini. October 21, 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-22.
- Piyanuch, Thamnukasetchai (October 11, 2008). "No explosive residue: Pornthip". The Nation.
- Abdullahi, Najad (11 Feb 2009). "Myanmar's unwanted boat people". Al Jazeera.
- "Dr. Porntip: Suspects on security offences are victims". ISRA Institute Thai Press Development Foundation. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
- Goodnough, Abby (January 16, 2005). "Thai Doctor Fashions a Life Working Among the Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- Mydans, Seth (April 13, 2002). "On Death's Trail, a Detective Larger Than Life". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- "Pornthip Rojanasunand". Who's Who in Thailand. 2009-06-16. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
- "แพทย์หญิง คุณหญิงพรทิพย์ โรจนสุนันท์" [Khunying Doctor Pornthip Rojanasunand] (in Thai). Madame Tussauds Bangkok. n.d. Retrieved 2013-05-22.