PM shunts feuding police pair

PM shunts feuding police pair

Transfer needed as probe gets under way

National police chief Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol and his deputy, Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn, share a light-hearted moment after they were ordered on Wednesday by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin to be transferred to the PM's Office apparently to end the mounting rift within the police force. (Photo: Nutthawat Wichieanbut)
National police chief Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol and his deputy, Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn, share a light-hearted moment after they were ordered on Wednesday by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin to be transferred to the PM's Office apparently to end the mounting rift within the police force. (Photo: Nutthawat Wichieanbut)

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has ordered the transfer of national police chief Torsak Sukvimol and his deputy Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn to work at the Prime Minister's Office in the wake of a conflict within the Royal Thai Police (RTP).

The transfer order follows weeks of tension during which Pol Gen Surachate, also known as "Big Joke", faced a money laundering charge related to the BNK Master online gambling website.

Police investigators failed in their efforts to summons him to acknowledge the charge on Sunday.

On Monday Pol Gen Torsak said Pol Gen Surachate was summonsed to appear at Tao Poon police station on Thursday, and he would face an arrest warrant and be suspended from duty if he failed to answer a second summons.

Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Kitrat Panphet

Tension intensified on Tuesday as a team of lawyers representing Pol Gen Surachate accused 30 officers of taking kickbacks from the BNK Master network -- the same gambling network to which Pol Gen Surachate was allegedly linked.

In a move aimed at preventing the scandal from spiralling out of control, Mr Srettha, who chairs the Police Commission, on Wednesday moved the two police generals to work at the Prime Minister's Office.

A committee was also appointed to look into the accusations which ranged from accepting a bribe to making false accusations against Pol Gen Surachate to thwart his chances of being considered for the police chief post.

The committee has 60 days to work and during this period deputy national police chief Pol Gen Kitrat Panphet will serve as acting national police chief.

The committee comprises former interior permanent secretary Chatchai Promlert, former deputy attorney-general Chatipong Jiraphan and former deputy police chief Pol Gen Winai Thongsong.

The panel is the same one which looked into last year's high-profile raid at Pol Gen Surachate's house before the appointment of the new police chief.

It is expected to conclude whether the two generals should be reinstated or continue working at the Prime Minister's Office.

Before the transfer order, Mr Srettha summonsed Pol Gen Torsak and Pol Gen Surachate to meet at Government House.

Mr Srettha said the transfer is temporary to ease work within the RTP and insisted it is not a punishment. He said the meeting was to inform the pair of what is expected of them during the transfer.

He said both of them promised not to interfere in the process and both men accepted his decision to move them aside.

"They are senior officers who know what to say or not say. [The transfer] is to let the inquiry run without interference," said Mr Srettha. He said the issue will be resolved in 60 days and the committee will look into every accusation.

"Transferring the conflicting parties will allow officials to do their job efficiently," he said.

Mr Srettha, who is scheduled to attend the Police Commission on Thursday to lay down policy, said he did not think he has to explain anything to those attending the meeting.

After the meeting with the prime minister, Pol Gen Torsak and Pol Gen Surachate appeared together at a joint press conference and announced the case would be handled by the National Anti Corruption Commission (NACC) to ensure fairness and reduce conflict.

Pol Gen Surachate said Mr Srettha stressed the need for zero-conflict in the police and told them to focus on working for the people. He has not received the summons regarding the charge of money laundering in connection with the online gambling website and the process has not started yet.

Pol Gen Torsak said he has less than 200 days to work until his mandatory retirement and wants to make every day count. He insisted he has no conflict with anyone. He was not worried or discouraged by the transfer.

Pol Gen Surachate said he is happy to work in any situation. However, he said he has yet to see what his new assignment is.

Pol Gen Kitrat said a letter from the prime minister appointing him acting national police chief was to be delivered to the Office of the Police Secretary yesterday.

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