Defiant deputy police chief shunted to inactive post

Defiant deputy police chief shunted to inactive post

Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Wirachai Songmetta answers reporters' questions about the shots fired at Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn's car, at the Royal Thai Police Office in Bangkok on Jan 9, defying national police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda's order that he stay out of the case. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Wirachai Songmetta answers reporters' questions about the shots fired at Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn's car, at the Royal Thai Police Office in Bangkok on Jan 9, defying national police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda's order that he stay out of the case. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has transferred deputy national police chief Pol Gen Wirachai Songmetta to the Prime Minister's Office, apparently for defying a direct order by national police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda.

Gen Prayut issued the transfer order on Thursday.

Despite his new and seemingly inactive role at the PM's office, Pol Gen Wirachai continues to receive the same remuneration and privileges from the Royal Thai Police Office.

The transfer follows a report from the RTPO saying that Pol Gen Wirachai's behaviour and actions had affected public confidence in the national police chief, and the image of the police force.

The RTPO formed a committee on Tuesday to investigate the matter, and Pol Gen Wirachai was quickly  transferred to ensure a transparent probe.

Also on Thursday, Pol Gen Chakthip issued an instruction cancelling his past order assigning Pol Gen Wirachai to act on his behalf in several areas, including intellectual property violations.

On Jan 9 Pol Gen Wirachai seemed to defy Pol Gen Chakthip's instruction to stay out of the investigation into the shots fired into the Lexus SUV of Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn, aka Big Joke, a former immigration chief and now special civilian adviser to the PM's Office.

On that day Pol Gen Wirachai met reporters at the Office of Police Forensic Science in the grounds of the RTPO, and supervised the examination of the vehicle.

Pol Gen Wirachai apparently ignored an order by Pol Gen Chakthip not to meet reporters covering the case, and to wait for the investigation report from the Metropolitan Police Bureau.

The instruction was heard in an audio clip of a phone conversation leaked on the morning of Jan 9.  In the recording a senior police officer was heard warning a subordinate, and mentioned a person named "Joke".

Deputy police spokesman Pol Col Krisana Patanacharoen later confirmed it was a conversation between the national police chief and Pol Gen Wirachai.

Pol Gen Wirachai interrogated Pol Lt Gen Surachate at Bang Rak police station about the shooting on Jan 6.

In the audio clip, Pol Gen Chakthip was also heard saying that a police general should not take orders from a police lieutenant general, and that Pol Gen Wirachai should not do anything that would lose his trust.

Earlier, Pol Lt Gen Surachate linked the shooting of his car to his opposition to a 2-billion-baht biometric identification system that the RTPO purchased through the Immigration Bureau. He also demanded Pol Gen Chakthip take responsibility if those responsible for the attack on his car were not arrested.

Prominent lawyer Sittra Biabangkerd has asked to the National Anti-Corruption Commission to question Pol Gen Chakthip about the procurement of the biometric identification system and also about plug-in hybrid patrol vehicles bought for the Immigration Bureau.

He alleged that Pol Gen Chakthip approved the procurements, and that the biometric identification system was inefficient in some areas and that its delivery was long delayed.


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