From closing the kingdom’s biggest mass murder case to rescuing trapped Thai nationals abroad to leading delegations to foreign countries as well as rooting out corruption within the Royal Thai Police, General Surachate Hakparn has an impressive track record as he seeks the top job.

General Surachate Hakparn who is also known in Thailand as ‘Big Joke’ is in the running to become the country’s next National Police Chief with the incoming government asking contenders to submit their vision for the role in the last week. It follows a reversal of course announced at the end of August when the outgoing government decided to leave the appointment for the new government of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.

A decision is due in the coming weeks on the appointment of Thailand’s next police chief with General Surachate Hapkarn, the country’s best-known and loved policeman, asked to submit his vision for the role in writing to the Police Commission overseen by the new government.

Thailand’s favourite top cop, Police General Surachate Hakparn, affectionately known as Big Joke, has been to the fore of countless newspaper reports over the past decade or so in a multitude of roles.

He is among the shortlist of top police officers who are in the running to become the 14th National Police Commissioner.

General Surachate Hapkarn or ‘Big Joke’ is on a shortlist for the role and has been asked to submit his vision in writing to the Police Commission

On Friday last week, General Surachate revealed that he is one of the candidates for the position and said he submitted a four-page outline of his vision for the role in a selection process that is being overseen by the outgoing Police Chief General Damrongsak Kittiprapas. 

This is understood to have followed a decision on August 25th last by the Police Commission chaired by then outgoing Prime Minister Prayut Chan Ocha which decided to postpone the appointment of a new National Police Chief.

It was reported at the time that Police General Torsak Sukwimon, the current Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) boss, was the leading candidate for the top job.

The decision to postpone the appointment was made in a spirit of good governance and respect towards the incoming cabinet which was sworn in on September 5th.

Top cop says his vision for the role revolves around protecting the Thai public and helping to restore faith and confidence in the national police force

In a brief statement afterwards, then Prime Minister Prayut, through a spokesman for the Royal Thai Police, Police Lieutenant General Achayon Kraithong, confirmed that the process of appointing a new police commissioner had been postponed until the appointment of the incoming government.

It is understood that Police General Torsak will also be a contender for the role of National Police Chief, which will be considered and decided on by the new government. 

Commenting last week on his proposed submission to the selection process, General Surachate said his vision would revolve around the mission to keep the Thai people safe and to encourage faith in the Royal Thai Police. 

The country’s police force has seen its reputation damaged in recent years with shocking revelations in which officers have been arrested on corruption and indeed also on murder charges.

Enquiry finds that Police Chief in Narathiwat province went rogue and advises charges against 3 officers

The deputy police chief has been involved in several cases which have seen charges brought against senior officers in the force including a case last year where charges were recommended against the former Provincial Police Chief of Narathiwat province.

Crackdowns on call centre scams and loan sharks

General Surchate or ‘Big Joke’ last week particularly highlighted his role as a police officer in combating the twin threats of the rampant excesses of call centre gangs and informal lenders or loan sharks who prey on the public as an example of activity that needs to be suppressed. 

He said that these wrongdoers were inflicting a lot of hardship and suffering on the public and would be a key target for him if he is selected for the new role.

The veteran senior police officer, who has emerged as a point man for significant cases over the last 12 months under General Damiransuk, found his police career controversially sidelined in April 2019 when he was removed overnight as the Head of the Immigration Bureau. 

General Surachate was subsequently moved to a role at the Prime Minister’s Office, only to return less than two years later in March 2021, assigned to the office of the National Commissioner at Royal Thai Police Headquarters.

Controversial removal of Big Joke overnight from his dream job as Immigration Bureau Chief in 2019 leaves questions that have never been fully answered

Since then, the top cop has played a leading role in breaking significant cases and assisting the government in improving security for foreign tourists as well as directing the Kingdom’s fight against human trafficking.

The deputy police chief is the leader of a task force involved in coordinating police activities in this matter across the country. 

General Surachate also plays a key role in liaising with external police forces in the United States and China while in recent times, he has visited Brussels to brief the European Union on Thailand’s efforts to rein in human trafficking.

In January 2022, he led a delegation to outline Thailand’s campaign against the use of trafficked migrant labour on fisheries vessels. 

This campaign won the country significant praise from both European and US political leaders.

In April 2022, General Surachate led another task force seeking to rescue 3,000 Thai citizens trapped in Cambodia by cybercrime cartels.

This resulted in a police operation in which he was subsequently critical of the performance of the Cambodian police.

Determination to rescue trapped Thai nationals in Cambodia working for scam gangs in April 2022 left him less than impressed with the Cambodian Police

General Surachate, in recent interviews with the media including the New York Times, suggested that he believed the gangs were tipped off by unknown sources leading to his campaign only rescuing 100 or so Thai nationals from the country. 

Over the last two years, ‘Big Joke’ whose nickname relates to his favourite breakfast cereal while a trainee police officer, has emerged as a figure that the Thai public trusts.

How did the 49-year-old police boss get his legendary name ‘Big Joke’ anyhow?
Biggest criminal case in Thai history to be finalised, on Friday, against suspected serial killer Am Cyanide

A case in point is the suspected serial murderer Sararat Rangsiwutthaporn who became known as Am Cyanide, who is believed to have murdered at least 14 people in a campaign of poisoning over an 8-year period in a case that was only finalised by a team led by General Surachjate in June this year.

High-profile cases closed by the country’s top policeman including Thailand’s biggest serial murder probe this year linked with the notorious Am Cyanide

The case emerged when members of the public came forward pleading for his help in exposing their suspicions about the woman at the centre of what looks like being recorded as Thailand’s biggest serial murder investigation.

General Surachate has also been a key mover of a complaint filed with the National Anti-Corruption Commission related to a database system installed within the Immigration Bureau which saw former National Police Chief, General Chakthip Chaijinda, accused of corruption at the end of July this year. 

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

Controversy arose over the database system’s procurement during Big Joke’s time as Immigration Bureau Chief in 2019 and some analysts believe this may have been linked to his removal from that role at the time.

The top cop has consistently claimed that he is impervious to corruption.

Indeed, General Surachate first made a name for himself as a senior police officer in Bangkok, often coming to the assistance of foreigners in the Thai capital who found themselves the victims of shakedowns by criminal or rogue police elements.

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Further reading:

Big Joke promoted to a new role at police HQ working on reform of the force from April after reshuffle

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