This is the final installment of of Sankei Shimbun and JAPAN Forward reporter Hideki Yoshimura’s interview with veteran Japanese investigator Kunio Tojima, who has become a colonel of the Royal Thai Police.
I understand you were in Bangkok in August 2015, when a bomb went off at Erawan Shrine in Bangkok’s central district, killing 20 tourists and injuring 140 people, including one Japanese. Two accused men from China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region are currently on trial for premeditated murder. Did you have something to do with that case?
Yes, I know that case. When Thai people make bombs, they are usually just intended as threats or intimidation. But whoever made that bomb put ball bearings in it and intended to kill a large number of people. Also, bombs made in the far-south regions of Thailand, where many Muslims live, have a different kind of detonator. I knew right away this was the crime of a foreigner.
The crime scene was quickly taped off, and debris was methodically collected for evidence. Execution was good—Japanese-style crime scene investigation had permeated the force. When there is a proper inspection report, even the investigators, prosecutors, and judges that don’t see the crime scene in person can understand the situation at a glance.
The composite photo of the suspect created from images off security cameras, along with the testimonies of witnesses, led residents to provide helpful information. The Thai police demonstrated to me the extent of their improved skills in crime scene investigation in the way they handled that incident.
My student investigators often come to me for advice. I think fondly of the times when there were no shoe covers to prevent investigators from leaving footprints at the scene, so we were using plastic bags from the convenience store over our shoes. Even now, I often laugh at crime scenes when I hear them using Japanese words they learned from me, like saishu-bukuro (collection bag) and “Oi, hayaku yare!” (“Hurry up!”)
Where is your work focused now?
There are presently a number of Japanese companies located in Prachinburi province near the Cambodian border. Right now I am helping to train the local police who are working to track down drug smugglers.
I also give lectures on crisis management to the local Japanese population. I tell them it’s important to not be arrogant and to try to learn from the locals.
The lessons go both ways. It is important to be aware that one must protect oneself. Japan will be hosting the Olympics in 2020. At the previous Tokyo Olympics in 1964, people were cautioned to be wary of pickpocketing, but now it’s terrorism. Thailand has tourism police, an organization to protect foreigners—something Japan could look at as an example.
I have former students all over Thailand who are now the heads or second-in-command at their stations. I taught them when they were young and just starting to rise in the ranks. They sometimes ask me to name their children when they’re born, and I’ve named 10 or more.
This photo is of twins I named Hayato and Ryoma. This one is Sachiko. The older ones are already in high school. They come to greet me on their birthdays, so I always carry around envelopes of gift money. They’re really cute. A Japanese acquaintance once said to me, “How can you have fathered so many kids in Thailand?” But I proclaim, I’m an innocent man.
You are now famous in Thailand. Have any other Southeast Asian countries shown interest in Japanese crime scene investigation techniques?
Well, yes. I received some requests from nearby Southeast Asian countries to train their police in crime scene investigation, after becoming known in Thailand.
Recently, some high-ranking police officers from Uganda in Africa also came to Bangkok and requested that I go to Uganda to give practical training in crime scene investigation there. There was one Asian among them, and I was told he was a Chinese authority. China has built impressive police facilities in Uganda and introduced Japanese-made crime scene investigation equipment, but they don’t have the know-how, so they wanted me.
I wasn’t sure whether I would be allowed to teach freely, so I declined and recommended they go directly to the police in Japan with their request. If it hadn’t been for the Chinese involvement, I might be breaking new ground in Africa right now, training them in crime scene investigation like I did in Thailand.
How long do you plan to stay and continue your training work in Thailand?
Both of my parents passed away while I was in Thailand. Sadly, I didn’t get to visit them in the hospital and didn’t make it in time for their funerals. My beloved wife is no longer with me. My calling is here now. I will continue my work, teaching and training in the Buddhist country of Thailand.
Hideki Yoshimura is the Sankei Shimbun’s Singapore Bureau Chief. The interview for this article took place at Bangkok in December 4 and 5. Click here to read the original article in Japanese.