DSI backpedals on police stations scandal

Out of the blue, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) suddenly decided not to summons Democrat party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and his former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban for interrogation in connection with the alleged corruption in the construction of 396 police stations across the country.

Even Mr Abhisit appeared puzzled by the unexpected decision, which is in sharp contrast to the zeal initially shown by DSI chief Tarit Pengdit in pursuing the case against the former prime minister and Mr Suthep, his former deputy prime minister.

“Does this mean that I and Khun Suthep had nothing to do with the (corruption) scandal?” Mr Abhsit said in response to a reporter’s question about the DSI’s sudden about turn.

Asked about Mr Tarit’s allegation that some influential politicians had interfered in the construction contract, the Democrat Party leader firmly insisted that he and Mr Suthep had never meddled in the project.

“I also don’t know whether Mr Tarit was referring to Mr Chalerm (Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung) or not,” said Mr Abhisit.

Mr Tarit’s charge to nail both Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep over the contract scandal seems to have hit a big stump, an obstacle that might have been overlooked in the first place.

Some people suspect that the investigation might have stumbled on more dirt that, if publicly exposed, would implicate more people in political and police circles, not just the two Democrats.

Mr Tarit was last week rebuked by Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew for his comment that the DSI might also summon the police chief for questioning about the scandal.

The police chief’s reaction prompted Mr Tarit to say sorry.  Last Monday, Mr Tarit met Pol Gen Adul at police headquarters, reportedly to offer an apology.

The Royal Thai Police Office conducted its own investigation into the scandal, with the (not totally surprising) conclusion there was no corruption involved.

So when the owner of the project, the police office itself, declared that it was as clean as a sheet of white linen, the best thing that Mr Tarit could do was to back off, forego the earlier plan to question both Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep, and quickly wrap up the case for submission to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) for consideration.

As a matter of fact, the DSI should not have handled the investigation in the first place. The organisation which is directly responsible for the case is the NACC, but in the interests of some hidden political agenda Mr Tarit chose to play a hand.

The zealous way the DSI pursued the police stations scandal against Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep follows a previous pattern -- when the department tried to saddle the two men with full responsibility for the deaths of red-shirt protesters killed by security forces during the violent anti-government protests in May 2010.

The DSI made use of the court’s judgement in the case of Pan Kamgong, a protester shot dead by security forces, as the basis to charge Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep with “conspiring to cause other people to intentionally kill others in anticipation of the result”.

There is however a legal hitch about the charge. That is, how can Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep be held accountable for giving orders resulting in the killing of red-shirt protesters when the court could not identify the killer or killers?  Is it possible that Mr Tarit, a former judge, actually overlooked this basic legal point?

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About the author

Writer: Veera Prateepchaikul
Position: Former Editor