BANGKOK – Royal Thai Police chief Jakthip Chaijinda told journalists on Friday that a legal team was checking to see if Major General Paween Pongsirin comments were defamatory, a criminal charge in Thailand.
Major General Paween Pongsirin a former officer tasked with investigating human trafficking fled to Australia, fearing for his life after he found senior figures in the military and police were involved in the trade.
Royal Thai Police chief Jakthip Chaijinda told journalists on Friday, “I don’t know the reason why he had to go and speak about this issue but he should not talk about this because it could damage the country,” Jakthip said.
He added that Paween was the only police officer to raise allegations of intimidation.
Major General Paween Pongsirin was appointed to lead the investigation into the grim discovery, which at the time was interpreted as Thailand treating the issue more seriously. His team uncovered a major human trafficking syndicate but he says that “from the beginning” he was under pressure not to pursue the perpetrators too enthusiastically.
The General resigned from the force last month after he was transferred against his will to an insurgency-plagued region in the deep south of Thailand.
He said traffickers he was pursuing were influential in this region and “senior police” in the area were involved with the trade. He told his superiors that he feared for his life if he were sent there, but says his protests were ignored.
The investigation he led was disbanded after just five months.
The military-run government was dismayed in July when Thailand was blacklisted in a US report for the second consecutive year for not combatting modern-day slavery, with the ministry of foreign affairs insisting it had made “tangible progress”.
The Guardian News in Australia reported that General Paween Pongsirin did not name the senior officials he alleges are complicit in the human trafficking trade in Thailand, but says the jungle camps would have needed influential oversight to stay open.
“Human trafficking is a big network that involves lots of the military, politicians and police. While I was supervising the cases I was warned all along.”