The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) will set up its own armed witness protection unit because it does not trust security personnel from other agencies.
The NACC currently uses officers from the Crime Suppression Division and local police to guard witnesses.
But some witnesses have been forced to hand-pick guards whom they know personally and can trust, NACC member Vicha Mahakhun said.
He cited the case of Jintana Kaewkhao, an opponent of power plant projects in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, who is being protected by police from different units. She does not trust police officers from the province as she fears they may side with the plant operators.
Mr Vicha said the NACC's witness protection team will be part of the agency's special operations unit.
The NACC will recruit its witness protection officers from university graduates. New recruits will be trained in strategic operations and the use of weapons. The new unit will be ready in a year, he said.
Currently the NACC has about 10 witnesses who need protection, but members of the anti-corruption agency are not authorised to carry guns.
Even Mr Vicha himself said he feels insecure. He said that after the NACC issued its ruling on the Oct 7, 2008 crackdown on yellow-shirt protests _ which involved high-ranking police officers and national politicians _ assailants attacked his home with a grenade and he had to move into a condominium.
Mr Vicha said that the NACC has more than 9,000 pending cases.
He is hopeful that the commission will be able to wrap up some of its high profile cases before the new year _ including an investigation into a computer procurement project by the Public Health Ministry.
The NACC has already formed a committee to investigate the 3G network licence auction to find out if any collusion took place between the three mobile phone operators who submitted successful bids, and if the auction results were endorsed too quickly.
Mr Vicha said the NACC has received many complaints about the government's rice pledging scheme.
Most complaints involve allegations of fraudulent registration of pledged rice.
The latest complaint came from Senator Mahannop Detwitak, who said that the scheme has obstructed market mechanisms and created an unfair monopoly.
Mr Vicha said that investigations into rice pledging will be the most challenging issue for the NACC due to its scale.
The NACC member explained that the amended law on corruption prevention and suppression that took effect in April last year greatly enhances the graft-busting agency's effectiveness, especially in cases involving corrupt politicians.
The amended version of the law lifted the statute of limitations that could protect politicians who have committed criminal acts.
The NACC is petitioning the Supreme Court to allow the amended law to take retroactive effect on past cases involving corrupt politicians, he added.
The amended law also allows the NACC to allow individuals involved in corrupt acts to work with the agency as informants.
There are about 10 such witnesses who will not be prosecuted and are entitled to special protection, Mr Vicha added.
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- Writer: Manop Thip-Osod