Thaksin revels as backstage miscreant
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Thaksin revels as backstage miscreant

A 2018 picture shows Thai Liberal Party leader Pol Gen Sereepisuth Temeeyaves launching his campaign for election the following year. Weerawong Wongpreedee
A 2018 picture shows Thai Liberal Party leader Pol Gen Sereepisuth Temeeyaves launching his campaign for election the following year. Weerawong Wongpreedee

Out of the blue, the retired national police chief and leader of the Seriruamthai Party, Pol Gen Sereepisuth Temeeyaves, dropped a bombshell that put former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in the crosshairs.

In an interview late last week with a reporter from PPTV, Sereepisuth disclosed that he had decided to withdraw the malfeasance in office complaint filed with the National Anti-Corruption Commission against Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, as a result of lobbying by Thaksin and his sister, former prime minister Yingluck.

Without specifying the date, the former police chief said he visited Thaksin at the Police General Hospital.

During the brief encounter, Thaksin asked him to withdraw the complaint against Srettha made by the NACC.

At first, he boldly told the interviewer that he initially declined, claiming it could not be done because the complaint concerns a criminal case.

The complaint concerns the prime minister's appointment of Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol as the police chief about a year ago, which he deemed a violation of the Police Act regarding seniority, which is one of the key elements of police promotions.

According to Sereepisuth, Pol Gen Roy Inkapairote was then the most senior candidate for the post among three deputy police chiefs.

The second was Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn, with Pol Gen Torsak being the third in line.

However, Thaksin was persistent about withdrawing the complaint as he promised to do the rest, that is to lobby the NACC to drop the case.

Meanwhile, Yingluck called him from abroad, making a similar request.

The former police chief said that since he knew the two former prime ministers, and Thaksin was his junior at the Police Academy, he agreed to withdraw his complaint.

"I am not vindictive; the issue is not a personal vendetta. How could I deny their requests?" he told the interviewer.

It is unclear whether the NACC has dropped the case because both the anti-graft chairman, Pol Gen Patcharapol Prasarnrajkit, and the secretary-general, Niwatchai Kasemmongkol, have kept mum about this issue.

If the accusation is true, why did Thaksin decide to intervene on behalf of Mr Srettha and risk being criticised again for breaking his promise to the "powers that be" to stay away from politics and take care of his grandchildren like other grandparents?

One reason is that if Srettha was faulted by the NACC and the case was then forwarded to the Constitutional Court, the PM might be ordered to step down temporarily, leaving the coalition government without a sitting prime minister.

In the next step, if Mr Srettha was found guilty of malfeasance by the court, he may be removed from the post.

This would cause real trouble for the Pheu Thai Party because there are no qualified replacements, as Thaksin's daughter and Pheu Thai leader, Paetongtarn, is not ready to assume the post. The other candidate, Chaikasem Nitisiri, is too sick to fill the void at present.

But Mr Srettha's problems don't end there. He is facing another case, still pending with the Constitutional Court, for his appointment of Phichit Chuenban as PM's Office minister, which may be deemed a violation of Section 160 of the constitution.

In any event, Thaksin's alleged intervention has reinforced the notion that he will stop at nothing, even breaking his promise again, to protect the interests of the Pheu Thai Party.

We would like to hear from either Pol Gen Patcharapol or Mr Niwatchai whether the NACC, a charter-mandated independent organisation, has been subjugated to Thaksin's increasing influence.

If that is the case, it is saddening for the country and the people that no state agency dares to stand up to the whims of one old man.

The NACC only has itself to blame for its poor performance.

Take, for example, the case of the luxury wristwatches worn by Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who was cleared of wrongdoings like a white piece of linen.

Another pending case concerns Pol Gen Surachate, in which the NACC is accused of protecting the beleaguered police officer.

The Metropolitan Police Bureau has unsuccessfully asked for the return of Pol Gen Surachate's case file in which he was charged along with four other police with money laundering in connection with the BNK Master online gambling network from the NACC.

The police claim the case is within the jurisdiction of the Criminal Court, not the NACC, because it concerns money laundering charges and not malfeasance in office which falls under the NACC's jurisdiction.

The case file was sent to the NACC by instruction from the prime minister last December, and the NACC allegedly sat on it until the expiry of the six-month period on June 6 for the police to proceed with the case in court.

The NACC's conduct in handling Pol Gen Surachate's case leaves much to be desired. Combined with its poor track records in the past several years, this leaves us with little doubt that the NACC is hopeless and badly needs a complete overhaul.

Veera Prateepchaikul is former editor, Bangkok Post.

Veera Prateepchaikul

Former Editor

Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.

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