New chief brings fresh air into DSI

New chief brings fresh air into DSI

Trairit says his medical background will help, not hinder

The Department of Special Investigation is an agency whose main task is to administer justice to victims of crime, so its chief is expected to be a well-rounded, relatively senior, and at times, a combative individual.

However, as soon as Trairit Temahiwong was promoted to DSI director-general, his calibre was immediately called into question.

The newly-appointed DSI chief stood out from the rest. For one, his name isn't prefixed by a police rank -- unlike past chiefs of the agency.

Responding to doubters' claims about his capacity to lead DSI without police training, Dr Trairit said his medical background and time served in the forces made him fit to sit in the office as any other candidate.

He served as a specialist at the Central Institute of Forensic Science (CIFS) before he was transferred to the DSI, where he held the position of a deputy director-general. He was the DSI's inspector-general before he took the top job at the agency.

In an interview with the Bangkok Post, Dr Trairit denied having been granted a "fast track" to the top job by politicians, insisting he rose through the ranks on his own merit.

He said he was shocked when he first learned of his first promotion to DSI deputy director-general.

At the time, he said, the Justice Ministry was encouraging its officials to work in other agencies to give them more experience in multi-disciplinary work and inter-departmental cooperation.

"Someone even asked me whose strings I had to pull to get where I was. I swear I did not seek anyone's favour," Dr Trairit said.

The new DSI chief said his forensic science expertise will come in handy as it could provide the agency with a new direction, both in the way the agency is managed, and in its investigative work.

He also believed his prior experience working with the CIFS and advising the DSI in high-profile investigations will help him improve the DSI's performance.

One example is the probe into the fatal shooting of 93 people at Wat Pathumwanaram in central Bangkok during a clash between red shirt protesters and security forces in 2010.

"I don't have a degree in law but investigation happens to be my cup of tea and I'm eager to learn," he said. "Investigators will find that their familiarity with forensic sciences will enhance their ability to defend their cases in court."

The DSI director-general said he counts himself lucky for having attended courses in justice administration where he met and befriended academics and experts across a number of fields. Several fellow attendees of such courses, he said, are now department directors-general.

"Collaboration with other departments will be needed when delving into cases which require a special set of skills to crack," he said.

He said leading the DSI at a time when a third of its budget had just been cut won't be an easy task. Though the agency has access to emergency funds, it won't be enough to cover all expenses.

Many bases for special operations, for example, are located on leased land, so prudent financial management will be essential to ensure the cuts won't disrupt officials' tasks and responsibilities.

According to Dr Trairit, the biggest challenge for the DSI is how to share the results of its investigations fast enough to counter claims being made on social media.

He said confidential information must be safeguarded and anyone breaching that rule must be severely punished. "The leaking of classified information could lead to the course of investigation being manipulated," he said.

Dr Trairit said he isn't worried about oversight, as he has his deputies, including those in charge of legal affairs, to help him avoid legal quagmires.

The DSI will also prioritise coordination with agencies in other countries to improve the DSI's performance. Dr Trairit said he has a plan to establish a forensic science centre at the DSI to assist with tasks such as tracking cyber criminals and searching for missing persons.

Under his leadership, he said, DSI officials will be regularly re-trained so they can conduct investigations while keeping abreast of new crimes, such as cryptocurrency scams and illegal online transactions.

Dr Trairit said acquiring knowledge is about approaching the right experts and listening to them.

"I was selected for a job which entails a heavy workload and responsibilities. It's not all glory," he said.

"No one knows everything, [so] if one is clueless, one must ask the experts."

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