Corruption crackdown is similar to efforts seen under President Xi Jinping in China, with 700 names being reviewed by the Ministry of the Interior with tip-off lines for lawbreakers, particularly those employed by government agencies. The campaign even targets those procuring prostitution.
The murder of Highway Patrol officer Police Lieutenant Colonel Siwakorn Saibua on September 6th has led to a massive investigation into corruption within government project bidding and a Chinese Communist Party-style crackdown on all kinds of illegality in the kingdom from procuring prostitutes to paying bribes to officials for ignoring red tape. A criminal case is also being built against Mr Praween Chankhlai, the primary suspect behind the killing, with two of the most senior Royal Thai Police officers saying that he will undoubtedly face the death penalty.
On Wednesday, October 18th, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), backed up by armed tactical support police and local officers in Nakhon Pathom, raided several businesses and premises in the province linked to a corruption investigation into the companies of Kamnan Nok or Mr Praween Chankhlai, who is currently imprisoned at Bangkok Remand Prison, facing charges of premeditated murder linked with the September 6th shooting and murder committed by a close associate at his headquarters in the Ta Kong area of Nakhon Pathom.
On this occasion, a celebration attended by over 25 police officers, the deceased policeman was Police Lieutenant Colonel Siwakorn Saibua, an officer working with the Highway Patrol in the same province.
Death of a policeman for standing on his integrity has stung the force and the government, encouraged by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, into action
It later transpired that the Headman ordered the killing after the officer refused to promote a nephew of Mr Praween’s wife.
The murder and its circumstances led to broader questions about his relationship with police, particularly within the Highway Patrol.
The extent to which the local kamnan thought he had such authority also led to a Department of Special Investigation (DSI) investigation into two firms operated by Mr Praween, P. Patanarungroj Construction Company Limited and P. Raweekanok Construction Company Limited which has now broadened into a more exhaustive enquiry.
The searches, conducted on Wednesday, are in connection with a broad investigation by the DSI led by Police Lieutenant Colonel Suriya Singhakam into several specific government projects awarded in recent times to the two companies controlled by Kamnan Nok, which are linked to the ฿7.57 billion in contracts awarded to his companies between 2011 and 2023.
Probe by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) is linked to bidding on selected range of projects where investigators think there is corruption
At the beginning of October, Police Lieutenant Suriya explained there were 58 companies linked to the bidding process for state contracts, which has now been replaced by a controlled e-bidding system protected by blockchain technology, which the government installed on April 3rd, 2023.
The new bidding system was designed to prevent information leakage to rival bidders.
At length, the blockchain system, controlled by the Comptroller General’s Department, allows firms to bid at set bidding times from 9 am to 12 noon and from 1 pm to 4 pm while transparently showing the record of anyone who logs into the bidding system at any time.
Police point out that the current investigation linked with Kamnan Nok involves the activities of these 58 companies before this system came into effect.
In mid-September, officers from the DSI interviewed representatives of the companies and government officials concerning bidding activities and the allocation of contracts.
The projects from 2011 to 2023 have a value of only ฿30 million over 38 separate contracts awarded to the two firms owned or controlled by Mr Praween.
Charges against government officials linked with awarding these contracts are thought likely sometime in December 2023, according to the DSI chief
In early October, Police Lieutenant Colonel Sirayan suggested that once the evidence is complete, including Wednesday’s raids on five locations in Nakhon Pathom and ongoing interviews completed, the DSI will ultimately interrogate Mr Praween or Kamnan Nok at Bangkok Remand Prison as the next step.
The evidence collection is mainly targeted at officials with government agencies or departments who colluded with this activity, with several names repeatedly turning up in recent enquiries.
‘It is anticipated that there may be admissions concerning officials involved, but I would like to check the matter again,’ Police Lieutenant Colonel Suriya Singhakam said at this time.
‘The Department of Special Investigation expects it will take up to two months to finish gathering evidence. In that time, we will identify any additional persons who need to be prosecuted in court.’
In the meantime, in a parallel exercise, a wide-ranging investigation into similar practices on a nationwide basis, led by the Ministry of the Interior and Deputy Interior Minister Chada Thaiset, has already identified a hit list of 700 people who may be linked to corrupt operations or mafia activity across the Kingdom.
Massive nationwide crackdown on illegality and corruption, as in China, being overseen by the Ministry of the Interior, 700 people reported
The list, currently in the hands of the Ministry of the Interior, has been compiled from tip-offs by local authority officials and members of the public.
A special committee within the government has been set up to carry on the work of suppressing corruption at the local authority level.
Still, police authorities have now widened the scope of the campaign against all corruption and illegal practices, including petty crime and corruption, with the police also called upon to target those procuring prostitutes.
In early October, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin commended the work of the committee and all those involved while promising to make every effort to protect those whistleblowers coming forward and giving information to authorities concerning what is going on.
The Prime Minister emphasised the importance of creating a safe environment for whistleblowers and a culture of not accepting corruption or illegal activity.
Members of the public can submit anonymous tip-offs through the government’s 111 mailbox online or at any Damrongtam centre operated by the Ministry of the Interior across the Kingdom. These are places in Thailand which can adjudicate complaints or grievances.
Complaints can be made by whistleblowers on a police hotline number 1599 on a broad basis against anyone, including government officials, behaving badly
The public can also ring a police hotline number established by the Cybercrime Division on 1599, the Prime Minister outlined.
The move against corruption includes identifying and prosecuting loan sharks, those involved in monopolistic activities such as creating price cartels in connection with state contracts or otherwise.
Additionally, officials or members of the Royal Thai Police who demand payments from drivers of public transport vehicles or any government official who demands bribe payments for ignoring government regulations or procedures can be reported.
The remit for making complaints about suspected wrongdoers also extends to those involved in operating illegal casinos, procuring prostitutes and those involved in the human trafficking trade.
Anyone involved in concerns or engaging in illegal rackets with tourists coming into the country is also of interest to those prosecuting this campaign.
Violent debt collectors to police demand fines from motorists. All this may now be reported to a hotline number and are promised protection by the PM
In addition, police are also looking for information on anyone involved in providing a hitman service or being engaged in illegal or violent collection of debt.
The current crackdown also extends to the sale of unregistered weapons and those who exploit public lands or are engaged in damaging the environment.
Drug dealers and those involved in the sale of illicit narcotics can also be reported to the number provided by the Prime Minister.
The current crackdown and campaign to root out corruption and illegality has evolved from the murder of the above-board young police officer on September 6th in Ta Kong, Nakhon Pathom.
Criminal case against Nakhon Pathom kamnan could see the death penalty handed down against him, according to two of the country’s top police officers
The murder has led to charges against the local headman in Ta Kong, who is currently held at Bangkok Remand Prison.
Mr Praween may be facing the death sentence after a case initially prosecuted by Deputy National Police Chief General Surachate Hakparn was subsequently handed over to the Central Investigation Bureau, where officers are confident that they have strong evidence against the local businessman and community leader.
Even when the case of the murder of Police Lieutenant Colonel Siwakorn Saibua was transferred by order of the National Police Chief on Monday to the Central Investigation Bureau headed by Police Lieutenant Jiraphat Phuridet in mid-September, senior officers were highlighting that the evidence against the local boss showed that he was the mastermind of what looks like a premeditated murder of the policeman.
At the time, the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) commander also announced that police had expanded the investigation to look at more influential figures in Nakhon Pathom in what could be a crackdown on mafia-like operations in the province.
Big Joke or General Surachate was definite about the severe nature of the case against the local strongman and believed the evidence was overwhelming
Before handing over the case, Deputy Police Chief General Surachate Hakparn or ‘Big Joke’ was emphatic.
‘The evidence we have points to Mr Praween as the mastermind. This includes witness statements and circumstantial evidence like the provision of the gun, the destruction of evidence and the motive for the shooting. These key components could lead to him receiving the death sentence.’
Furthermore, Deputy Police Chief General Surachate told reporters that the more he investigated the case, the more it looked like it was an outrageous murder.
Mr Praween, while engaged in conversation with Police Lieutenant Colonel Siwakorn on a possible promotion for his wife’s nephew, was refused.
He was told by the police officer not only that he straightforwardly conducted his business but that he was unafraid of the local Kamnan and told him that a local boss could not take on a senior police officer.
Remarks by the deceased police officer as he refused Kamnan’s request triggered his murder, with the evidence showing prior planning for the shooting
It is thought that this last comment infuriated Kamnan Nok, whose influence was reported to be pervasive not only in the local area that he oversaw but also in the operations of local police.
Before the case was handed over to the Crime Suppression Division and the Central Investigation Bureau in mid-September, General Surachate revealed that evidence had been retrieved from 13 cameras, which recorded footage into a server that was recovered from a nearby canal into which it had been thrown.
General Surachate also revealed that the land cables from two particular cameras which would have covered the area where the murder took place had been withdrawn at about the same time as the gunman had attacked the police officer.
Investigators working on the case also from the CCTV footage suggest that there was evidence that Kamnan Nok and his associates were preparing for an attack with weapons being seen brought into the building and preparations for family members to make their escape being put in place.
Kamnan Nok’s associates prepared for the attack
Significantly, this happened in the minutes up to the moment that Mr Thananchai Manmak, a henchman employed by Kamnan Nok, opened fire on the policeman, fatally wounding him and seriously injuring another senior officer, Police Lieutenant Colonel Wasin Panpee, with the latest evidence suggesting that the latter officer did not realise he was seriously wounded until he collapsed while making his way out of the building, only to be rescued by police officers who transported him to hospital.
Police General Surachate was anxious before being taken off the case in September that more investigation needed to take place into the activities of other police officers.
Six have already been arrested and charged with negligence over the shooting, but others have also been pursued by the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), including 14 officers whose behaviour was questionable.
Since taking over the case, the Chief of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), General Jiraphat Phuridet, has also concurred with General Surachate that there is enough evidence against Mr Praween Chankhlai to see him handed the death penalty in due course for the premeditated murder of a police officer.
Most police failed to respond robustly
In September, General Surachate identified the activities of the other police officers as also suspect in the light of the CCTV footage.
The Deputy Police Chief is understood to be surprised that the response from the body of police at the event on September 6th was not more robust in dealing with those responsible for the attack, as they had the power on the scene to arrest the perpetrators, with many of the officers being already armed.
At the time, speaking to reporters, Police General Surachate was quite confident that Kamnan Nok or Mr Praween Chankhlai could not evade criminal responsibility for what had happened.
‘Now people are asking what charges Kamnan Nok will face. Someone asked if Kamnan had shot him or not. By legal principles, Kamnan Nok ordered Mr Thananchai Manmak to carry out the shooting. If he is already dead, according to the law, Kamnan Nok is liable as if he was the one who shot the policeman. Subsequently, those involved in house cleaning must be held responsible for destroying evidence and intimidating witnesses. Today, regarding the shooting and the cause of the incident, the evidence is so strong that he cannot escape responsibility,’ Police General Surachate told reporters.
Dynamic top cop made the remarks just before being removed from the case and being embroiled in a dubious police raid on his home on September 25th
The Deputy Chief, who was tipped to become police chief just weeks after he made these statements but was frustrated by a mysterious raid on his home on the morning of Monday, September 25th, called for a robust investigation not only into the murder but into the root cause of the incident including the influence of financial peddling and money laundering.
General Surachate called for the country’s anti-money laundering laws to swiftly confiscate property in the matter.
Furthermore, the police in Nakhon Pathom are reportedly following up with interviews of the close family of Kamnan Nok or Mr Praween Chankhlai in recent days as the complex criminal probe into the murder of a senior police officer continues together with the DSI investigation into government contracts as well as the national crackdown being driven by the Ministry of the Interior.