Army rejects punishment claim
Graft leak not reason for action, it says
Army spokesman Col Winthai Suvaree has denied reports that a sergeant is facing punishment for exposing alleged graft in an army unit.
Sgt Narongchai Intharakawee faces disciplinary and criminal action for dereliction of duty in violation of the Military Disciplinary Act, Col Winthai told a press briefing on Thursday.
According to previous media reports, Sgt Narongchai, who serves as a budget clerk at the army Ordnance Department's material rebuilding centre, claimed he has been intimidated, threatened and faces punishment for exposing graft at the centre involving military allowances.
He said this forced him to abscond and seek protection from the House committee on legal affairs, justice and human rights, and bring the matter to the attention of the media.
Col Winthai said the army has a policy of ensuring justice for all personnel, who can lodge complaints through official channels in the military chain of command.
In the case of Sgt Narongchai, he lodged a complaint directly with army chief Apirat Kongsompong who recently set up a complaints hotline, Col Winthai said.
The army chief then set up a panel to look into the alleged graft early last month and the panel wrapped its probe at the end of last month, Col Winthai said.
The panel found there were grounds to the allegation, and the army chief then instructed the panel to forward the case to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), Col Winthai said.
The spokesman insisted the army will not protect any wrongdoers because the army is also the damaged party in the alleged graft.
Col Winthai said Sgt Narongchai also faces disciplinary and criminal action for his absence from work, not for exposing the alleged graft.
In September last year, Sgt Narongchai was accused of disrespecting a superior.
A disciplinary panel was set up to look into the matter, and decided to put him in detention for seven days on March 18-24 this year, Col Winthai said.
However, Sgt Narongchai evaded detention, absconded and now faces disciplinary and criminal action for dereliction of duty, he said.