Chakthip: Paween team members deny threats

Chakthip: Paween team members deny threats

An initial inquiry has found that none of the officers involved in human trafficking investigations led by outspoken Pol Maj Gen Paween Pongsirin received threats to their lives, national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda said on Saturday.

Pol Gen Chakthip said a police investigative committee had so far interrogated more than 50 of the officers on Pol Maj Gen Paween’s team. Another 20 or 30 remain to be questioned.

However, the initial investigation showed none of them had received threats to their lives, said Pol Gen Chakthip, adding that his deputy Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, who oversees the ongoing investigation, would provide further details.

The police chief set up the inquiry after Pol Maj Gen Paween said he had received threats against his life from "influential people" while serving as the chief investigator of widespread human trafficking in southern Thailand.

Pol Maj Gen Paween has since fled to Australia, saying he no longer felt safe in his home country after leading an investigation that has led to about 90 arrests so far. Some of those facing charges include military, police and political figures. 

The court cases are expected to take years, and since many cases would require the testimony of Pol Maj Gen Paween, the prospects for a successful prosecution are not certain.

Since Pol Maj Gen Paween made his revelations in the international media, the main focus of the Thai police response has been to question his credibility. One officer even floated the idea of lodging a defamation suit against him.

Pol Gen Chakthip said earlier that an ad hoc police panel would find out if there were grounds to Pol Maj Gen Paween's claims, and whether any other investigators on his team had received similar threats, particularly those working in the Region 8 and Region 9 provincial police bureaus.

Pol Maj Gen Paween was a former deputy commissioner of provincial police Region 8. He quit the Royal Thai Police on Nov 5 after being transferred to the Southern Border Provinces Police Operation Centre, where he said he had made numerous enemies while investigating and arresting influential figures involved in trafficking of Myanmar and Bangladeshi migrants there.

With his task force having issued 153 warrants and detained 91 people, he said the transfer to the traffickers' area of influence put him in danger.

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