Art snatcher suspended
The senior Thai official arrested in Japan for painting theft has been suspended from duty, pending a disciplinary probe launched in the face of growing public pressure.
Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn said Sunday that Suphat Saguandeekul, deputy director-general of the Department of Intellectual Property (DIP), has been ordered to temporarily assist work at the ministry, pending an investigation.
Ms Apiradi said a panel will be set up to look into the case.
Deputy Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said he will sign an order establishing the committee today. A punitive measure will be decided following the probe result.
A source at the ministry said Mr Suphat could face a penalty, ranging from probation to a salary cut, termination of employment or expulsion from his agency.
Ms Apiradi expected the probe result to come out within a week.
Besides representatives from the ministry, the panel also will comprise authorities from various agencies including the Office of the Civil Service Commission and the Prime Minister's Office to ensure transparency in the probe.
Mr Suphat was caught stealing three paintings worth about ¥15,000 (4,635 baht) from a hotel in Japan last Tuesday.
He was released from detention in Japan on Friday and has since returned to Thailand.
The Japanese prosecutors and police determined he committed a petty, unpremeditated crime which did not cause damage to others.
Mr Suphat's case has been widely discussed on social media, with many people saying his action tainted the country's reputation, and urging Thai authorities to take action against him.
Ms Apiradi said the ministry has been contacted by Mr Suphat who admitted to his wrongdoing and repented.
"He apologised for his wrongdoing to his superiors, his peers and the Thai people," she said.