The Excise Department has come under fire after it was claimed that one of its high-ranking officials attempted to persuade the police to release a truck which had been seized for carrying 15,000 litres of smuggled oil.
Deputy director-general of the department, Kriangkrai Pattanapon, said a committee had been formed on Wednesday to look into the claim, which surfaced following the arrest of a 47-year-old truck driver identified only as Sombat in Prachuap Khiri Khan's Muang district.
The truck driven by Mr Sombat was intercepted by the police on Phetkasem Highway in tambon Koh Lak as it made its way to the Central Plains on Saturday evening. Officers discovered the truck was loaded with 15,000 litres of oil of unknown origin.
Right after he was arrested, one of the officers at the scene reportedly received a phone call from the high-level Excise Department official, who was trying to secure the release of both the truck and its driver.
However, the police rejected the request, he said, adding the department and the police's Anti-Corruption Division will be jointly conducting an investigation into the matter.
"If there is evidence which implicates a high-level executive, the department will verify it and take disciplinary action without any leniency," the deputy director-general said.
On Thursday, anti-crime activist Atchariya Ruangratanapong urged the Anti-Corruption Division to expand the investigation into the case.
Speaking to the press at the Anti-Corruption Division headquarters, he said the official in question is a deputy director-general and that the truck was en route to Pathum Thani in the Central Plains from Songkhla in the South.
He said excise officials in Prachuap Khiri Khan had been instructed to let the truck and the driver pass, but they were unable to do so because the police had already impounded the truck.
He added that oil smuggling from the South occurs almost nightly, before raising questions about the whereabouts of the impounded truck.