Sukumpol launches inquiry into reshuffle audio clip leak

Defence Minister ACM Sukumpol Suwanatat has ordered an inquiry into a leaked audio clip used against him in this week's censure debate.

ACM Sukumpol said the clip, played by the opposition during the debate on Nov 25, had been edited to make him look bad. The audio was recorded at an Aug 17 high-level meeting about the recent military reshuffle.

The investigative panel ordered by ACM Sukumpol will be asked to identify who was responsible for recording and leaking the audio clip. If a suspect can be identified, the panel will determine what punitive actions should be taken.

The defence minister, who was one of the censure targets, was accused by the opposition of violating regulations in the appointment of senior military officers.

Before the censure debate, ACM Sukumpol came under attack for the transfers of former defence permanent secretary Sathian Phoemthongin and two other generals in the reshuffle.

ACM Sukumpol transferred Gen Sathian, his deputy Chatree Thatti and the director-general of the Secretariat Department Pinpas Sariwat to inactive posts, claiming they had leaked information about the appointment of the next permanent secretary for defence.

Gen Sathian was known to have challenged ACM Sukumpol's choice for the new permanent secretary, Thanongsak Apirakyothin.

ACM Sukumpol said yesterday the audio file presented as censure evidence against him was played out of context. The opposition allowed only the parts when he was speaking to be heard, he said.

The minister added that the recording may have been produced by a senior military officer. "It's hard to believe an officer in a position so high would do a thing like that," he said, refusing to name the suspect. The recording constitutes a gross breach of etiquette and discipline, he added.

"The opposition has targeted me possibly because I ordered opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva's rank to be stripped," ACM Sukumpol said.

Mr Abhisit's military rank was revoked and his military salary recalled on the ground that he used fraudulent documents to apply for and obtain a job as a lecturer at Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy. The job enabled him to evade military conscription.

Gen Nipat Thonglek, deputy defence permanent secretary, said yesterday ACM Sukumpol had signed an order authorising the audio clip inquiry. The 18-man panel is headed by Gen Nipat.

If the leakage or production of the audio recording implicates a retired officer, the Judge Advocate-General will provide advice on whether or how the probe might exercise its jurisdiction over the individual, he added.

About the author

Writer: Wassana Nanuam
Position: Reporter