Army whistle-blower granted bail for absence charge

Army whistle-blower granted bail for absence charge

NACC's role questioned after dismissal order came the same day it granted protection

Sgt Narongchai Intarakawi is escorted to the Bangkok military court on Monday. Dozens of people came to give him moral support. (Photos by Wassana Nanuam)
Sgt Narongchai Intarakawi is escorted to the Bangkok military court on Monday. Dozens of people came to give him moral support. (Photos by Wassana Nanuam)

A sergeant who exposed corruption in the army has been granted bail from a military court for the charge of unauthorised absence.

Military investigators took Sgt Narongchai Intarakawi, 33, a clerk at the army’s Ordnance Department, to the Bangkok military court on Monday to seek the first round of his detention on Monday.

The court approved his bail request unconditionally in the afternoon.

Earlier on Monday, the sergeant, widely known in Thai media by his nickname Arm, reported himself to the Office of the Judge Advocate in Pathum Thani to acknowledge the charge of absence without leave.

According to him, he found his name had been used to apply for allowances during 2011-19 for non-existent trips and projects. He complained to his supervisor, hoping it would stop but was reprimanded.

The whistleblower claimed to have exhausted all appeal channels, up to the army chief, to no avail.

On Sept 5 last year, he sent a complaint to the Ombudsman but had yet to hear from it.

Since then, he started having disputes with his supervisor. The situation worsened for him and he felt he was bullied, including being bypassed for promotion. The last straw for him was a panel's order to detain him for seven days for arguing with his supervisor, forcing him to flee on March 17, a day before it was to happen.  

On the same day, he filed a case with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and sought witness protection, possibly through a transfer to another unit.

Eighty-three days later, or on June 8, the NACC issued the witness protection order for him. But on the same day, the army issued the order dismissing him from service for being absent without leave for 15 days, ending the possibility for him to keep the job he had had for nine years.

He claimed he was not aware he had been dismissed since June 8 and only saw the order when a House committee considering his case showed it to him, saying the NACC gave it to the panel. 

Earlier on June 4, army spokesman said a probe had been made into Sgt Narongchai’s corruption claims and found it had grounds. 

Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong sent the case to the NACC. If the anti-corruption body accepts it, its ruling will be binding for both criminal and disciplinary action.

The army insisted it would not protect wrongdoers since it stands to lose from the graft as well, said Col Winthai.

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