Embattled deputy national police chief Surachate Hakparn said on Wednesday that he had paid some reporters who covered his activities, and added that he was in no hurry to become the police chief.
In an interview with TV news anchor Sorrayuth Suthassanachinda, Pol Gen Surachate, aka Big Joke, said he was close to four reporters in particular and paid each of them 10,000 baht when they covered certain stories.
He said reporters earned small salaries and he sympathised with their financial plight.
Pol Gen Surachate, already the best-known policeman in the country, has attracted even more publicity than usual in recent days, following a raid on his home in connection with a police crackdown on online gambling.
Pol Gen Surachate told local media that he pays about 1.5 million baht a month out of his own pocket to cover the expenses of his team because the police department often lacks the resources needed to pursue certain investigations.
A deputy national police chief earns a base salary of 78,000 baht a month. Pol Gen Surachate said the money he spends comes from his wife Sirinatda, the daughter of Bancha Panitchapong, a billionaire transport and property tycoon in Songkhla, his home province.
The deputy chief mentioned a TV news reporter as one of the recipients of his largesse. He said she was a native of Songkhla and they had known each other since he was a local police chief in Hat Yai
Another recipient was a native of the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat. The reporter came with a team of three or four to cover his activities, Pol Gen Surachate said.
The money was intended to cover their meals and travel costs when they visited the provinces to cover cases in which he was involved, he said.
“I am generous. … I have done this since I was an inspector,” he said. “At my news conferences, I gave each reporter 500 baht for their meals and petrol. … The money was mine and was not from a gambling website.”
Pol Gen Surachate faced searches at five houses he rented in Bangkok on Monday, and several of his close subordinates were arrested for alleged involvement in the gambling business.
He had been identified as one of four potential candidates to succeed Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas who will retire on Sept 30, as the new national police chief.
Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol was named to the top position on Wednesday afternoon.
Pol Gen Surachate said earlier that the top job can wait, given that he is just 53 years old and has other things he wants to accomplish before moving on. He reiterated that position on Wednesday.
“I am out. I don’t want to get involved,” he said. “Whoever wants to be (police chief) can be. I still have seven to eight years in the service. If I do not resign, I might have the luck to vie for it then.”