Police transfer critics claim secret agenda
Some say MPB, CIB shake-ups are a bid to oust the old guard
The latest police reshuffle in two key agencies is more than just a move to transfer officers linked to alleged irregularities, according to some observers.
Expected to take effect on Thursday, the changes to 73 positions at the Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) — which oversees Bangkok — and 130 positions at the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), involve many officers from the old power clique of the Yingluck administration.
The biggest surprise is the unprecedented transfers at the MPB, in which senior officers — 14 at commander level and 59 at superintendent level — have been mostly moved out from the MPB, compared with the 10 or so transferred in the past.
Their removal occurred amid legal action against many city police accused of being involved in allowing private companies to install advertisement screens on traffic police kiosks. Some officers are suspected of demanding bribes from the companies in return for having their ads put up.
Of the 73 transferred officers, 45 have been implicated in the alleged extortion. Though some officers complained to national police chief Pol Gen Somyot Pumpunmuang over what they claimed were unfair transfers, MPB commissioner Pol Lt Gen Sriwara Rangsipharmnakul insisted they were carried out in a lawful manner.
The transfers have drawn criticism from some police who see the removal of the MPB officers who have not been found guilty of any wrongdoing as a punishment. They were demoted to lesser-known police stations outside the capital.
Some believe they have been deliberately linked with the advertising scandal to pave the way for the appointment of "close and trustworthy associates" to important posts in the MPB.
Many newcomers to city police headquarters include those who once worked on security affairs with the Wongsuwon group during the Abhisit Vejjajiva government. The group is named after former national police chief Pol Gen Phatcharawat and his elder brother Gen Prawit, now deputy prime minister and defence minister.
Among the incoming MPB senior officers are Pol Col Sarawut Iamsamran, who will be transferred from deputy Pattani police chief to deputy chief of the MPB's Investigation Division.
Pol Col Kittipong Wisetsanguan, Bang Ban police chief in Ayutthaya, will be appointed as Huai Kwang police chief overseeing one of Bangkok's key business areas. Pol Col Chumphon Chanchanayothin, Sawang Daen Din police chief in Sakon Nakhon, will be in charge of Tha Kham police station, which is regarded as a "Grade A" police station in Bangkok.
Former police officers who used to accompany ex-Democrat heavyweight Suthep Thaugsuban, now living as a monk, such as Pol Col Suwitcha Chindakham, chief of the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division's region 4, will do well from the transfers.
Pol Col Suwitcha's younger brother Pol Col Sarawut, Kannayao police chief in Bangkok, will be deputy chief of the MPB's Protection and Crowd Control Division. Earlier in 2009, Pol Col Sarawut was promoted to Lumpini police chief when Phra Suthep was a former prime minister.
Pol Col Uthen Nuiphin, Metropolitan Police Division 6's chief of investigations, is one of many officers to leave a prime position at the MPB. He will be transferred to chief of the MPB's Training Centre Sub-Division.
Transfers of senior police officers at the CIB will result in those from the old power camp being removed. Of the 130 transferred, 56 are alleged to have connections with disgraced former CIB chief Pongpat Chayapan, who is being prosecuted for allegedly running an extortion and bribery ring.
CIB insiders said subordinates of Pol Lt Gen Pongpat will be "cleared out" of the bureau and replaced with new blood. Some of this "new blood" will include Pol Col Phondit Chairot, chief investigator of Nakhon Nayok police, who will become superintendent of Crime Suppression Division's (CSD) Sub-Division 3 under the CIB. Observers have asked whether these transfers are transparent at a time when the force is not subject to the influence of politicians.
Police spokesman and acting CIB chief Pol Lt Gen Prawut Thawornsiri insisted the transfers have been made carefully and transparently for the sake of the police force.
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