Rooting out graft in the force

Rooting out graft in the force

Unique insight into cop dynamics key to ending 'Boss' saga, writes Wassayos Ngamkham

photo: wassayos ngamkham
photo: wassayos ngamkham

Police inspector-general Visanu Prasattongosoth may not have taken up many combat roles during his time in the force, but his strong resolve has allowed him to accomplish the missions he has at hand.

Indeed, the police inspector-general will need plenty of resolve and hard work to complete his latest assignment -- leading a panel investigating fellow officers suspected of colluding to let Red Bull scion, Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, off the hook in his infamous 2012 hit-and-run case.

If the panel manages to complete its task well, Pol Gen Visanu may emerge as a serious contender for the top job in the force in the future, a source said.

A police inspector-general, although technically equal in rank to a deputy national police chief, isn't the most coveted post in the Royal Thai Police, as it is perceived as commanding less authority.

That said, the demands of the job -- an inspector-general is responsible for carrying out internal probes -- have provided Pol Gen Visanu with a unique insight into the inner workings of the force.

"It should be made a prerequisite for anyone made national police chief to have assumed prior service as an inspector-general," he said.

Born into a business family that commands Bangkok Airways and controls a vast fortune from a nationwide network of medical outlets, Pol Gen Visanu chose to pursue a career in the police instead, because he couldn't see himself following in the footsteps of his grandfather, or father and uncles, all of whom became doctors.

Having acquired his bachelor's and master's degrees in business administration in the United States, Pol Gen Visanu pursued another master's degree in law upon returning to Thailand, before he decided to join the force.

"I watched a lot of cop movies when I was a kid. I've always wanted to become one," he said.

Pol Gen Visanu said he likes to take on challenges in his professional life, saying it gives him the inner drive and stamina to go about his day. When asked what area he excels in, he said he couldn't pick one, as he has always been enthusiastic about whatever job he is assigned to do.

Having participated in a training programme run by the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pol Gen Visanu rose through the ranks mainly because of his work with Interpol. In 1998, he headed the RTP's Interpol division. Two years later, he was named deputy commander of the Foreign Affairs Division (FAD) before being promoted to commander of the unit in 2007.

Later, he was given supervisory roles in the Immigration Bureau and manpower management before he was shifted to the inspector-general seat.

One case which showcased his keen eye for cooperation was in 2007, when the FAD was asked by the South Korean police to arrest a fugitive paedophile from Vancouver, Christopher Paul Neil.

Neil was arrested in Nakhon Ratchasima in July 2012 after fleeing authorities in South Korea, where he had been living and teaching English, right after Interpol issued a global notice for his arrest.

Charged with molesting two minors during his time in Thailand, Neil's whereabouts were discovered when computer experts from Germany digitally unscrambled images from a child pornography site and found the man whose face was censored in the illicit images was the paedophile that Interpol had been looking for.

The image was distributed to Interpol member countries. Thai police identified Neil from airport security photos taken upon his entry into the country.

"After we caught the suspect, we contacted authorities in several countries including Cambodia, Vietnam, South Korea and Canada to inform them that we had found the man.

"We sent out copies of the suspect's fingerprints to other countries so they can compare them against their list of fugitives. It's all about paying close attention to the task at hand. It's not enough just to catch a suspect," Pol Gen Visanu said.

He is now investigating claims including the alleged siphoning of allowance money which was supposed to be paid to police containing Covid-19, as well as corruption which led to several night entertainment venues in Thong Lor being allowed to operate in violation of Covid control measures.

With the responsibility of investigating malfeasance in the police handling of the Red Bull scion's hit-and-run case now on his hands, Pol Gen Visanu -- who replaces another panel chief -- said he won't lose any time getting down to business.

He said the panel will convene for its first meeting on July 21.

The inspector-general said he isn't worried about investigating wrongdoings in which his fellow officers are the accused.

"Our duty is to find the truth. I can't say if that goal will be achieved while I'm in charge, but one thing I can assure you is I don't drag my feet," he said.

Last week, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) looked at launching an inquiry against at least 10 people for their alleged role in delaying justice in Mr Vorayuth's hit-and-run case.

Niwatchai Kasemmongkol, NACC spokesman, said findings by an independent panel headed by former NACC member Vicha Mahakun indicated a number of people, including several police and public prosecutors, played a role in getting prosecutors to drop criminal charges against Vorayuth.

A NACC sub-committee studied the report and recommended the NACC launch a more detailed investigation into individuals whom the Vicha panel believed had intentionally acted to derail the justice process.

The hit-and-run took place in August 2012, when Mr Vorayuth rammed his car into a motorcycle driven by Pol Snr Sg Maj Wichian Klanprasert of Thong Lor station.

Mr Vorayuth postponed his court appearances more than five times before fleeing abroad.

While Mr Vorayuth was overseas, a speeding charge against him was dropped after its one-year statute of limitations expired. Meanwhile, a second charge -- failing to stop to help a crash victim -- expired on Sept 3, 2017.

Two charges remain active -- the first, for narcotic use after cocaine was found in his system following a drug test. The charge will expire on Sept 3 next year.

The second charge -- reckless driving causing death -- will expire in 2027. The OAG had initially decided to drop the charge, but later decided to pursue it after a public uproar.

"Officers can commit wrongful acts. But I have the guts to punish my fellow officers if I have to," Pol Gen Visanu said.

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