End silence over fall of ‘Big Joke’
The officer was transferred twice early this month, each time without a clear reason.
The disappearance of former immigration bureau chief Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn following a lightning transfer has sparked wild speculation.
The officer, once a young rising star of the Royal Thai Police and a close aide to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, was transferred twice within a short time early this month, each time without a clear reason. The first transfer, signed by police chief Chakthip Chaijinda was on April 5. He was removed from the position of police bureau chief to the Royal Thai Police Operations Centre which is under the RTP headquarters — an inactive position that is sometimes referred to as a “grave” for officers facing a probe.
Another surprise transfer emerged on April 9, when Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha issued a Section 44 order in his capacity as chief of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to remove the officer from the police force to a civil service job. He is to serve under the Prime Minister’s Office but his new assignment is unclear. The two transfers are unusual by all means, especially the shift from police to civil service job, especially considering that the PM’s Office still had no idea about the new assignment for Pol Lt Gen Surachate.
Permanent secretary to PM’s Office Patcharaporn Inseeyong said she would see what Pol Lt Gen Surachate would be able to contribute to the new job. There are unconfirmed reports that he is on holiday in the US.
The officer was last seen at Government House, following the April 9 order, where he reported briefly to Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who supervises the Office of the Permanent Secretary under the PM’s Office.
Once an active netizen, Pol Lt Gen Surachate has been absent from social media, and unreachable by telephone.
Before this twist of fate, Pol Lt Gen Surachate was known as an officer who had greatly benefited from fast-tracked promotion. After joining the police force, he quickly rose through the ranks to command a local station and was later assigned to head the 191 task force in Bangkok. From there he moved to the tourist police before landing the top job at the Immigration Bureau last year.
He was known as a high profile officer who took a hands-on role in matters under his supervision. Due to his solid connection with the NCPO’s so-called big brother Gen Prawit, many believed he was slated to become police chief sometime soon.
So far, no one has given reasons or explained why he was transferred, even though the nature of such swift removal suggests the former immigration police chief might have made a mistake — such as graft or a breach of the disciplinary code — but no one has confirmed this.
Shortly before the transfer order came out, there were reports about a delay in the annual promotion process that was overseen by Pol Lt Gen Surachate.
It was initially believed that the officer was removed to pave the way for an investigation.
But on Friday, Gen Prawit denied there would be a probe into anything the former immigration bureau chief had done. “No panel will be set up to investigate Pol Lt Gen Surachate. The case is closed,” he said.
Prime Minister Prayut gave a gesture implying he did not want to talk about the high-profile transfer, despite a call by the pro-reform “Police Watch” group that the government clear the air about the matter.
Both the prime minister and his deputy have remained tight-lipped and that has only stirred public curiosity further.
Obviously, the transfers cannot be categorised as “normal”. Instead, there must be an explanation for the officer’s precipitous fall. The government should open up and let the public know what Pol Lt Gen Surachate has done or failed to do as IB chief.
Then it should set up an investigation which should be carried out in a fair and transparent manner, meaning Pol Lt Gen Surachate must have a chance to defend his name and his reputation against whatever accusations are made against him.
If he is in the wrong, he must face the proper punishment. Such plain and straightforward measures are necessary in order to maintain the public’s trust in due process and also the morals of those serving in the police force.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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