The Prime Minister was scheduled to preside over a meeting of the Police Commission on Wednesday afternoon, where the nomination of a new national police chief was to be decided. However, rumours began circulating that the meeting would be postponed.
There were rumours that after a public search of the home of one of the four candidates, the issue would be removed off the meeting’s agenda.
The Police Commission meeting to choose the 14th police head began at 1.30 pm, and Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin came at the Royal Thai Police Office (RTPO) to preside over it.
As stated in the Royal Thai Police Act, the Prime Minister serves as the de facto head of the Police Commission. Before entering to preside over the meeting, Mr. Srettha surveyed the rain-soaked honour guard outside the RTPO.
The purpose of the meeting was to choose a replacement for retiring Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas on September 30.
There was talk of pushing out the decision and the appointment of deputy national police chiefs and commanders to October, both of which had previously been on the agenda for the meeting.
One of the four candidates for deputy national police chief has been the subject of rumours that some members of the Police Commission could advise clearing up that person’s issues first.
It comes after police raided the homes of Pol Gen Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn, the deputy police commander, as part of an investigation into online gambling operations.
The operation code named “Big Cleaning Day” included the raids on Pol Gen Surachate’s homes in Bangkok on Monday morning as well as the search of 30 other residences in Bangkok and the provinces of Phetchaburi, Samut Prakan, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani, and Saraburi.
Deputy Police Chief Paid Reporters
On Wednesday, Surachate Hakparn, the embattled deputy national police commander, admitted to paying several reporters who covered his actions, and he also stated that he was in no rush to become the police head.
Pol Gen Surachate, also known as Big Joke, said he was tight with four reporters in particular and gave each of them 10,000 baht when they covered certain issues in an interview with TV news anchor Sorrayuth Suthassanachinda.
He acknowledged that reporters’ pay was low and expressed empathy for their situation.
After a police raid on his residence in connection with a crackdown on internet gambling, Pol Gen Surachate, already the most well-known police officer in the country, has received much more media attention than usual in recent days.
He alleges the search was politically motivated within the police department, but he denies any involvement and threatens legal action.
The police department often lacks the resources needed to pursue certain investigations, so Pol Gen. Surachate has been paying roughly 1.5 million baht a month out of his own pocket to cover the expenses of his squad, according to reports in the local media.
A deputy national police commander in Thailand can expect to get a monthly salary of 78,000 baht. Pol Gen Surachate claims that his wife Sirinatda, the daughter of a millionaire transport and property mogul in Songkhla, provides most of the funds for his lavish lifestyle.
The deputy chief specifically named a television news reporter as a recipient of his generosity. He claimed they had known each other since his days as Hat Yai’s police chief and that she was originally from the nearby city of Songkhla.
One more honoree hailed from Nakhon Si Thammarat, a region in the south. According to Pol Gen Surachate, the journalist sent a crew of four to cover his events.
He said the funds were for use during trips to the regions to investigate matters involving him.
I have a generous nature. As he put it, “I’ve been doing this since I was an inspector. “At my press conferences, I fed and gassed up every reporter who showed up,” he said. This is my own money, not winnings from an online casino.
Monday saw the search of five Bangkok rental properties owned by Pol Gen Surachate, and the arrest of numerous close subordinates on suspicion of involvement in the gambling operation.
He was one of four people considered for the position of national police chief after the retirement of Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas on September 30.
Wednesday afternoon saw the announcement of Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol’s promotion to chief.
Pol Gen Surachate has previously stated that he has other priorities at the moment and that he does not feel ready to take on the role of leader just now (at age 53). On Wednesday, he reaffirmed his stance.
“I must leave. He said, “I don’t want to get involved.” Anyone can be the police chief if they choose to be. I have another seven or eight years of military service left. It’s possible that if I don’t quit, I’ll be in a position to run for it.