Not above the law

Not above the law

Faith in the justice system continues to slide downhill over the report of two senior prosecutors allegedly being threatened by policemen charged with being complicit in running a controversial online gambling den.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) -- the judicial agency that decides which cases will go to court -- revealed more details about the case at a press conference on Monday. This came after public prosecutors apparently failed to receive a positive response from the Royal Thai Police (RTP).

Kulthanit Mongkolsawat, head of the OAG's Investigation Office, and Suriyon Prabhasavat, a fellow prosecutor, submitted an official petition to deputy national chief Pol Gen Thana Chuwong, who is overseeing the investigation, on Feb 2.

They complained of police intimidation -- even claiming to have been followed and photographed clandestinely by officers -- and requested special safety measures for themselves and others working the case.

Both also requested a new probe that was fair, transparent and professional.

And this case is no minor misdemeanour. There are around 60 suspects, with at least eight police officers. That list includes Pol Col Phakphum Phitsamai, reported to be immediately subordinate to the deputy national police chief, Surachate Hakparn.

Both prosecutors also asked the OAG to release them from their duties out of fear for the safety of their families.

Pol Col Phakphum and his associates replied by lodging a complaint against Mr Kulthanit and Mr Suriyon for their roles in assisting the case.

This is not the first time the public has heard about police officers using unethical tactics to intimidate suspects or otherwise tampering with an investigation.

But this case is more ominous as even high-ranking public prosecutors are running scared.

If public prosecutors can be sufficiently intimidated by the police that they are too afraid to continue with their work, what does this indicate about both the present and the future of the Thai judicial system?

And what hope do those with no power or connections have of ensuring justice is served? What will happen with regular folk who dare to challenge law enforcers?

The case has caught the attention of the media, adding plenty of drama to fuel eye-popping headlines.

Pol Gen Surachate on Monday denied any links to the online gambling den -- and threatened to sue any media that reported "unfair" content about him.

In defending himself, he managed to further damage the Thai justice system by accusing public prosecutors and some police officers of trying to discredit him.

Regrettably, this former top contender for the role of national police chief did not utter a word about how to resolve the issue of police intimidation.

This is not just an internal affair among law enforcers. It relates to public safety and points to a crisis in the justice system -- one that either national police chief Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol or Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who oversees the RTP, must fix sooner rather than later.

A fresh probe must be launched to find out how and why police officers are harassing public prosecutors and any wrongdoers penalised.

Doing nothing is tantamount to a tacit acceptance of intimidation tactics, sending the wrong message to the nation's security apparatus.

Editorial

Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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