BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai energy drink brand Red Bull has sought to distance itself from a member of the business founder’s family who was involved in a hit-and-run case, as calls to boycott its products grow.
Vorayuth Yoovidhya, grandson of the late Chaleo Yoovidhya who created the Thai energy drink Krating Daeng, or Red Bull, was accused of crashing his black Ferrari into a policeman in 2012 and dragging his body for dozens of metres before fleeing the scene.
Police said on Friday his charges, which included speeding, hit-and-run and reckless driving causing death, were dropped in a case that has raised questions about crime and punishment for the well-connected.
TCP Group, which owns the Thai Red Bull brand, said it is run by Vorayuth’s uncle and not directly associated with Vorayuth, whose father has part ownership in the international Red Bull brand that Chaleo had co-founded with an Austrian partner.
“TCP Group would like to clarify that Mr. Vorayuth Yoovidhya has never assumed any role in the management and daily operations of TCP Group, was never a shareholder, nor has he held any executive position within TCP Group,” the company said in a statement on late Saturday.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s office said on Sunday that news of the dropped case made him “uncomfortable” and he had ordered relevant agencies to review previous steps, adding that he had never granted personal favors.
The Office of the Attorney-General also said it would look into how the case was dropped.
Many Thais were angered by the move to drop charges, which prompted allegations of impunity for the rich and sparked calls on social media to boycott Red Bull products.
TCP Group said it was “fully aware of the situation and truly understands consumer sentiments regarding the incident.”
Vorayuth’s grandfather was listed as the third-richest person in Thailand when he died in 2012 aged 88, with an estimated net worth of $5 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
Red Bull GmbH sponsors Formula One racing team, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, and soccer team the New York Red Bulls.
Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; editing by Kay Johnson, Sam Holmes and Raissa Kasolowsky
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