Prayut, Somyot play down raid on Special Branch

Prayut, Somyot play down raid on Special Branch

National police chief Pol Gen Somyot Pumpunmuang talks to reporters before a meeting on human trafficking at police headquarters on Friday. He and the prime minister both played down the raid by soldiers on the Special Branch on Thursday as
National police chief Pol Gen Somyot Pumpunmuang talks to reporters before a meeting on human trafficking at police headquarters on Friday. He and the prime minister both played down the raid by soldiers on the Special Branch on Thursday as "just a misunderstanding". (AP photo)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and national police chief Somyot Pumpunmuang were playing the same tune on Friday, playing down the damage a day after the Special Branch was raided by soldiers.

"I have been informed. It was some kind of misunderstanding,'' the prime minister said at Government House.

He was referring to the bizarre military operation on Thursday.

At 11am that day about 10 soldiers from the 2nd Calvary Division King's Guard, who had arrived at the Special Branch in three Humvees, stormed into a room where police officers were watching a demonstration of eavesdropping and location-tracking devices by representatives of an Israeli security equipment company.

The nine Israeli demonstrators were taken from the room to the army barracks for questioning, but later  released.

The name of the company was not known.

''Special Branch police officers in the conference room were shocked and surprised at what happened,'' the Thai Post newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying.

The soldiers had been outside the police office since 8am, observing the situation before the sudden raid.

The Thai Post also reported, quoting unnamed sources, that the raid arose from the military's suspicion that police were trying to buy new equipment check on the movements of soldiers.  All police officers were tightlipped on Thursday after the raid, except Pol Gen Somyot who said briefly that it was a "misunderstanding".

The Special Branch is located in the same compound as the national police headquarters. Its motto is ''Excellence in Intelligence. Protecting the Monarchy."

The prime minister and Pol Gen Somyot, however, gave different accounts of the reason behind the army's decision to put a stop to the demonstration.

The prime minister explained that the misunderstanding arose because the firm's representatives had not properly informed Thailand of their presence through a diplomatic channel.

He denied that mistrust between soldiers and police was behind the raid, and dismissed the entire incident as a "communications breakdown" between the two security forces.

"It's not about mistrust. They talked this thing over and have reached an understanding. Next time they [senior police and army top brass] should communicate better,'' Gen Prayut said.

''I apologised" for what happened, the prime minister said and urged the press not to blow up the issue and stir conflict between police and soldiers.

Pol Gen Somyot said at a press conference at police headquarters that staff judge advocate Col Burin Thongpraphai had contacted him, requesting permission to enter the meeting.

The soldiers went there only to check whether the devices were legally imported or not, after discovering the firm would demonstrate the gear at the Special Branch, according to Pol Gen Somyot.


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