The new appointment for Police Lieutenant General Surachate Hakparn will take effect in April and was approved on Wednesday by the Police Commission chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha. It is unlikely that we will ever know the mystery of his removal in early April 2019 as Immigration Bureau boss but what we do know is that one of Thailand’s brightest policemen finally has the opportunity to continue his career.

Thailand’s high profile top cop, Police Lieutenant General Surachate Hakparn, is to be promoted and take up a new position at Royal Thai Police Headquarters working with the current National Police Commissioner in developing strategy and the way forward for reform of the force which employs hundreds of thousands of officers across numerous divisions. It comes as the government presses ahead with amendments to the 2004 National Police Act governing the management of police ranks and in particular how promotions are decided upon.

Nearly two years after being removed overnight from his high profile job as Chief of the Immigration Bureau, Big Joke or Police Lieutenant General Surachate Hakparn is to be promoted to the rank of Assistant Police Chief and will take up a new role at Royal Thai Police headquarters working with the National Police Commissioner, Suwat Jang­yod­suk (inset left) on police reform.

Thailand’s Police Commission has approved an active role for Police Lieutenant General Surachate Hakparn or ‘Big Joke’ who has already returned to the Royal Thai Police at its Pathumwan Headquarters under an order signed last week by the Prime Minister.

It is understood that the former high profile policeman will be promoted to the rank of Assistant Police Chief and will work closely with the National Police Commissioner in coordinating and developing a strategy to implement police reform which is a major goal of the current government.

Mystery removal from office and double transfer leading him to an inactive post at Government House

‘Big Joke’ was mysteriously transferred from his position as Immigration Bureau Chief on the 5th April 2019 by order of the previous National Police Chief, Chakthip Chaijinda, with whom he is reported to have had differences and was later, in an unprecedented move, transferred out of the police force to a post with the civil service and assigned to the Prime Minister’s Office at Government House.

Big Joke’s story remains a mystery 

The police officer, last year, made no secret of his desire to return to active duty within the Royal Thai Police but has maintained a disciplined and poised stance on the controversy surrounding his removal from the outset.

No wrongdoing has ever been suggested in connection with the affair despite reports of enquiries

On various occasions, senior government figures, including his one-time key ally, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, have insisted that the police officer did not commit any infraction although it was reported in recent weeks by government sources at the Prime Minister’s Office and the Royal Thai Police that an enquiry into his activities had been opened.

Police Lieutenant General Surachate brought proceedings before the Administrative Court seeking to be deployed back to the Royal Thai Police in September 2020 when he questioned his shock removal in 2019.

It is understood that those proceedings have now ended with no fault being found in relation to any party.

Linked with a complaint to the National Anti-Corruption Commission to which he gave evidence

His 2019 removal, last year, was also linked with a complaint that came to the National Anti-Corruption Commission concerning the installation of a ฿2 billion biometric system at Immigration Bureau checkpoints and facilities.

It is known that Police Lieutenant General Surachate gave evidence to the body but it is likely that the mystery of his removal and transfers in 2019 will remain so.

Former Immigration Bureau boss had a good reputation with expats and foreigners in Thailand up to 2019

Many expats and foreigners to Thailand are aware of ‘Big Joke’ not only as a formidable opponent of wrongdoers and a decisive enforcer of the law but also as a policeman who, in his short time with both the Tourist Police and especially the Immigration Bureau, made a noticeable difference in making both organisations more focused and easier to deal with. 

‘Big Joke’ – Shock as top policeman is removed 

There are numerous stories of the policeman coming to the rescue of foreigners who were being extorted by corrupt police officers and at the same time, he was the terror of non-nationals engaged in nefarious activities who entered Thailand to prey on unsuspecting victims living in the country in particular Nigerian gangs engaged in romance scams.

National Police Commissioner confirms transfer has been completed properly following proper protocol

The National Police Commissioner, this week, underlined that the transfer of the high profile policeman to his new role was fully in accordance with police procedure and rules set out by the Police Commission.

The Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha, who chairs the police board confirmed the new role of Police Lieutenant General Surachate on Wednesday after a meeting agreed on the fate of 75 key positions and the rotation of senior police personnel which is to come into effect in April.

Will work closely with Police Commissioner

The newly-promoted policeman will be working closely with National Police Commissioner Suwat Jang­yod­suk and also Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam to whom he reported to during his time at Government House.

In the last few weeks, as his fate was being decided, the policeman has been extremely tight-lipped giving no comments to the media.

A key aspect of the new role will be the proposed amendments to the National Police Act currently making its way through parliament.

Promotions within the Royal Thai Police, in future, to give precedence to the seniority of applicants

The new provisions are designed to create precedence within the Royal Thai Police for promotion based on seniority while also strengthening sanctions against corruption in such a way as to encourage officers to work diligently and within the system.

A key provision is an ethics and morality committee that will oversee the promotion process and to which officers may appeal decisions.

Amendments to the 2004 National Police Act

In January, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam explained to the Senate that the changes in these provisions are to create a framework for the management of the police service.

He stressed that the provisions were not designed to target specific abuses or certain egregious behaviours.

‘The draft bill is hoped to bring more transparency and efficiency to the police force,’ he explained. ‘It won’t eliminate injustice and crime, but I believe the proposed reforms will help keep the police in line.’

The Deputy Prime Minister said that boosting public confidence in the Royal Thai Police was a key goal of the government.

The Royal Thai Police force is a mammoth organisation with up to a dozen divisions which includes the Metropolitan Police Bureau but excludes separate regional police divisions attached to the Provincial Police throughout the country.

Policing in Thailand is a serious and deadly challenge

The service employs between 210,000 and 230,000 police officers who are kept busy dealing with a complete spectrum of crime from online and technological crime to the proliferation of drugs in the kingdom and one of the world’s highest homicide rates from firearms.

This, in addition to policing a country that has one of the most notorious and infamous road networks in the world for deaths and accidents.

The scale of the policing challenge in Thailand can be seen from its incarceration rate of 445 people per 100,000 population which is one of the highest in the world and second highest to the United States when it comes to women.

Join the Thai News forum, follow Thai Examiner on Facebook here
Receive all our stories as they come out on Telegram here
Follow Thai Examiner here

Further reading:

Big Joke’s fate still uncertain after nearly 2 years of mystery and limbo with new transfer imminent

Former Immigration Bureau boss ‘Big Joke’ to bring case against the PM to get his old job back after 2019 shunt

Big Joke heads to India to train as a monk after requesting work leave of absence until February 9th

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

‘Big Joke’ replaced by ‘Big Oud’ as Deputy PM says ‘case closed’ on departure from his previous role

‘Big Joke’ – Shock as Thailand’s best known and most high profile police officer removed abruptly from post