'Rock star' forensic pathologist to speak

Thailand's "rock star'' forensic pathologist says she likes working with dead people because they do not seem to mind her eccentric style.

Dr Porntip Rojanasunan is in Dunedin this week hosting lectures for the University of Otago's forensic biology summer school, as well as a public talk about insights from her career.

She is a media personality in her home country and her likeness is displayed at the Madame Tussaud's waxwork museum in Bangkok.

In 2003 she received the title Khunying, which is Thailand's equivalent of "lady''.

Thai forensic pathologist Porntip Rojanasunan inspects a plastic figure at the University of...
Thai forensic pathologist Porntip Rojanasunan inspects a plastic figure at the University of Otago Anatomy Museum. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Her work has included the identification of thousands of victims from the Indian Ocean Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.

Dr Porntip has long criticised what she sees as shortfalls in how Thailand inspects the dead.

"The forensic system in Thailand is a police system. The police almost always don't appreciate forensic science.''

She was central in the creation of the Central Institute of Forensic Science, which is independent from the Government.

However, the fight for identification was still a battle, she said.

"All over the country we have a lot of unidentified remains relating to complicated homicides, illegal migrations and abandoned people.''

These were "human rights issues'' and forensic improvement could help the justice system, she said.

This has been her mission since a case 25 years ago involving her own medical student.

The student was killed by her boyfriend and the police failed to act on a bloodstain in his car.

Dr Porntip got permission to search his flat, found a bloodstain on his bathroom floor and was able to link it to the victim.

"This case is my inspiration to establish a system of identification for the identified remains all over the country.''

Her work was helped by her Buddhist beliefs, she said.

"When we open the body the outside looks great but the inside looks very dirty. For me [Buddhism] taught me to not rely on the external but rely on the internal.''

• Dr Porntip will give a public talk at the university's Burns 1 lecture theatre on Thursday at 5.30pm.


I very much hope that members of the audience will ask this weird woman about her persistent support for the use of GT200 'bomb detectors' even after the devices were unequivocally shown to be fraudulent.