Moves by the Prime Minister on Friday interpreted as diffusing tensions at the top of the Royal Thai Police which was distracting from its core mission.

It is being reported that Police Lieutenant General Surachate Hapkarn, the former immigration police chief, requested and was granted leave from his position at the prime minister’s office. He has travelled to India to train and be ordained as a monk. It comes after news of an official reprimand from the prime minister on Friday and the removal of senior officers from the upper echelons of the police force.

Former immigration bureau police chief Lieutenant General Surachate Hapkarn or Big Joke has taken a leave of absence from his work at the Prime Minister’s Office to travel to India where he has been ordained as a monk. It is understood he will return to Thailand by February 9th. A letter requesting leave was submitted last Thursday.

Thailand’s former top cop and immigration bureau boss, Big Joke, had reportedly submitted the request to his superiors at Office of the Prime Minister from last Thursday the 23rd January.

The news comes after the high profile policeman was issued with a reprimand and warning from the prime minister on Friday following a controversy that had sprung up after the policeman’s car was shot at on January 6th last outside a massage parlour in Bangrak, Bangkok.  

Leave of absence letter confirmed at Office of the Prime Minister by Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam 

The status of Big Joke was not clear after details emerged on Sunday about his trip to India where he will be ordained at the Buddhakhaya Thai Temple.

However, it was later clarified by Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam: ‘I just learned from the Permanent Secretary of the Prime Minister that a leave of absence letter has been submitted.’

It is understood that the former policeman will be away until February 9th.

Former Immigration boss linked the shooting to an investigation into the police biometric system

The former immigration boss linked the incident to his appearance as a witness in a probe by the National Corruption Commission into the purchase of a multi-billion baht biometric scanning system for the immigration bureau which as commissioned last year after his resignation in April. This is thought to have been linked to his vociferous opposition to the project.

Flying to India to be ordained a monk

It is was reported on Sunday that  Lieutenant General Surachate is flying to India for 9 days where he will be ordained a monk. A source close to him indicated that the former police officer, who has worked as a special advisor at the prime minister’s office since last April, wants to do this to honour his parents.

Acted with professionalism in his current role

The source stressed that Lieutenant General Surachate had carried out his functions as an advisor at the Prime Minister’s office over the last nine months with professionalism and integrity at all times.

On Friday, it was reported that the letter issued to the former police boss by the PM tasked him with upholding professional standards and codes in the performance of his duties.

He was also warned that failure to comply with this requirement could result in a disciplinary probe against him.

Two senior police officers also removed on Friday

The letter to the former police chief came on the same day that several senior officers working as deputies so the National Police Chief General Chakthip Chaijinda were removed from active duty which was confirmed in orders signed by the prime minister on Friday.

The moves by the prime minister are being interpreted as a way to defuse tensions within the top ranks of the police force whose primary mission is the preservation of peace and order in the kingdom.

Speculation on who will be the next police chief

The moves have prompted speculation on who will succeed the national police chief when he retires in September this year as one of the officers removed was believed to be a leading candidate and thought to be close to the General Chakthip.

The four most likely officers to succeed the police chief are also due to retire in 2021 and 2022.

Further reading:

Big Joke reprimanded and deputy national police chief removed on the Prime Minister’s orders this week

Big Joke shooting controversy linked to the new ฿2.1 billion biometrics immigration system contract

Police top brass leading a thorough investigation into gun attack on former top cop Big Joke’s car