The minister, despite an initial delay because of urgent commitments, did eventually address the Administration Committee of the House of Representatives on Wednesday as planned. Thereupon, he gave an account of the current operations at the Ministry of the Interior, where he has been leading a massive anti-corruption sweep which has been gaining momentum since September with a growing database of suspected mafia operators.
On Wednesday, Deputy Minister of the Interior, Chada Thaiset, reaffirmed his position at the vanguard of an anti-corruption drive mounted by his ministry despite the arrest of his son-in-law, Mr Weerachat Rasamee in Uthai Thani on Tuesday morning after a police sting operation mounted by the Anti Corruption Division related to the alleged extortion of a local businessman and government contractor. The Commander of the Anti-Corruption and Misconduct Division (PPPO), on Tuesday night, told reporters that the minister had ordered him to proceed with the police operation and appropriate legal action beforehand when he called to discuss it with him.
The Deputy Minister of the Interior, Chada Thaiset, braved the media at a House of Representatives panel on Wednesday following the dramatic arrest of his son-in-law in Uthai Thani province on Tuesday morning for extortion and corruption.
The arrest came after a local contractor made a substantiated complaint to the Anti-Corruption and Misconduct Division (PPPO) of the Royal Thai Police against the minister’s son-in-law and others.
Committee heard at 10.15 am that Mr Chada was away and could not address it, but eventually, he gave the planned briefing on his ministry’s operations
On Wednesday, Mr Chada was due to appear before the House Administration Committee chaired by Mr Kornwee Prissananantakul.
When the committee met at 10.15 am, they were told by the Chairman that the Deputy Interior Minister was on a mission.
Still, he did manage to make it back to appear before them and answer questions concerning the operations of the Interior Ministry, where he is currently leading the drive to root out corruption, particularly at the local government level since the notorious Kamnan Nok shooting on Sepetmber 6th, which exposed suspected corruption in Nakhon Pathom.
This Ministry of the Interior campaign, led by Mr Chada, is why the arrest of the Mayor of Taluk Du Subdistrict in the Thap Than District of Uthai Thani on Tuesday morning was so embarrassing to his father-in-law.
Minister’s son in law arrested on Tuesday on foot of a warrant issued on Sunday by the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases
45-year-old Mr Weerachat Rasamee was arrested at 10 am on Tuesday morning along with the Secretary to the Municipality, 23-year-old Thanaphat Dulyathikarn and 47-year-old Mr Kulthat Samakkhi, Assistant Civil Engineer in simultaneous swoops.
Police confronted Mr Weerachat with a warrant from the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases, which had also been issued on the 22nd of October for five people.
The two other government officials were taken into custody at the Municipal headquarters.
In contrast, two other accused were detained in a coordinated police operation in the Mueang district or city centre area of Uthai Thani.
That police action saw two men arrested outside the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) in the urban centre of the province.
At the same time, they had been involved in collecting money from the victim in the case.
Victim was paying money to lift a block on his firm’s access to equipment and supplies to carry out a local government contract secured by e-bidding
The contractor was paid over ฿600,000 to lift a coordinated effort to deny him supplies and equipment for the contracts he had been awarded through the government’s new, more secure e-bidding system, despite earlier having been warned off such a course by unnamed individuals.
The two men arrested outside the bank by police and the heavily armed personnel with the Hanuman Task Force were 51-year-old Mr Manop Tidtimanop and 30-year-old Mr Yingyong Kachachan, who are believed to have been acting on behalf of Mr Weerachat, the son-in-law of the Deputy Interior Minister.
Details of the case were given on Tuesday evening by Police Major General Charoonkiat Parnkaew, the Commander of the Anti-Corruption and Misconduct Division (PPPO) of the Royal Thai Police.
He explained that a water well contractor had bid on several projects to construct a water pipe system in the Taluk Du Subdistrict of Thap Than District and Hat Thanong Subdistrict of Mueang, Uthai Thani Province.
Local firm submitted its bid through the new ultra-secure e-bidding process using blockchain technology introduced by the government in April 2023
The contractor successfully submitted his bid through the new blockchain-linked e-bidding system introduced by the government in April this year.
Probe by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) is linked to bidding on selected range of projects where investigators think there is corruption
He explained to police that after submitting his interest in bidding for the project, he received a mysterious call encouraging him to withdraw, suggesting that serious players with influence were already interested in the project.
Furthermore, he was offered tens of thousands of baht to refrain from bidding but nevertheless went ahead and submitted his bid following procedures.
Subsequently, the independent contractor won the bid to carry out the two projects but soon found that his company needed help to fulfil its duties under the contract signed with the relevant authorities.
Local influence had been brought to bear, which saw regular suppliers of construction equipment and cement inform his company that they were unable to meet his requirements at this time.
Victim who contacted the anti-corruption police said Mr Weerachat approached him in September and put an extortion proposal to him at ฿1 million
The victim explained that in September, he was contacted by Mr Weerachat, the Deputy Interior Minister’s son-in-law, who suggested that if the contractor was to pay ฿1 million, he could proceed with fulfilling his contracts in the typical fashion.
The victim subsequently negotiated this figure down to ฿600,000, and an appointment was made for Tuesday, the 24th of October, to pay over the money.
Security police and security forces were in position outside the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) in the Mueang District of Uthai Thani on Tuesday.
As Mr Manop and Mr Yingyong, the two representatives of Mr Weerachat, came to receive the money, the proceeds of extortion from the embattled businessman, they were being monitored by the police in a sting operation.
Once the money was handed over, police, including elements of the elite Hanuman paramilitary force, arrested the two men and took them into custody.
Mr Weerachat is the husband of Ms Altarika Thaiset, the fourth daughter of Mr Chada Thaiset.
Bail granted by the court Tuesday night with ฿400,000 surety and no police objection. The Mayor of Taluk Du Subdistrict resigned almost immediately
On Tuesday night, following his arrest, the court granted him bail with his surety of ฿400,000 and a personal undertaking with no objections from the police.
The response from Deputy Minister of the Interior Chada Thaiset has been quite decisive and robust.
Mr Chada, on Wednesday, told the reporters that after being released on bail, his son-in-law immediately phoned him, and he told him not to speak before he assured him of his support as a family member.
Mr Chada said he told his son-in-law that they were one family but, at the same time, insisted that he resign immediately as the Mayor of Taluk Du Subdistrict.
Additionally, Mr Chada explained to reporters that he had informed his Senior Minister and Party Leader, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, of the developments and, at length, assured him that there was nothing to worry about.
Senior police commander responsible for the sting operation told reporters on Tuesday evening that Deputy Interior Minister Chada gave the order
On Tuesday night, Police Major General Charoonkiat, who was responsible for Tuesday’s arrests and who is a commander with the Anti-Corruption Division, explained to reporters that he had phoned the Deputy Interior Minister before the operation was carried out.
The senior police officer said Mr Chada had instructed him to take whatever legal action was required.
The minister insisted that this was an example to all influential or corrupt operators in the kingdom that the time had come to cease their criminal activity.
The first thing to remember, he emphasised, is that the new government was determined that no one will be held to be above the law, even if it is family.
It was the same message that the Deputy Interior Minister had for the media on Tuesday night when he informed them that as the man responsible for the anti-corruption drive within the Ministry of the Interior, it was his duty to clean his own house first.
Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and Interior Minister say the arrest shows that no person can now safely consider themselves above the law
Indeed, this was the same message given by the Minister of the Interior, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin, on Wednesday, when he warned those working in government positions, be it in local authority or other areas within the civil service, that when they stoop to acting in such a manner, they become the prey of the Royal Thai Police and deserve to be treated as gangsters.
Deputy Prime Minister Anutin said the arrest of his junior minister’s son-in-law on Tuesday was a sign that the Royal Thai police were going about their duty in the right way.
He said that it showed that the new government’s policy and determination to root out corruption was concrete and tangible.
Deputy Prime Minister Anutin particularly emphasised corruption concerning government contracts.
Above all, he warned those who coordinated graft or extortion payments linked with such activity that they were the target of the new government drive would be caught and subjected to arrest and legal proceedings if detected.
The Minister of the Interior said that such a campaign was already underway and that the government was already moving against mafia cartels.
‘It is government policy. The government has ordered it since it was formed. Don’t let these things happen. In this case, it is the son-in-law of a minister, not someone nearby. The son-in-law chose this himself. The father-in-law only accepted the dowry,’ Mr Anutin declared to reporters.
Not strict enforcement but action against blatant illegality and corruption, which can no longer be tolerated, says Anutin. Networks will be detected
Under questioning from them, Mr Anutin took issue with the word strict, saying that the arrest of the Deputy Interior Minister’s son-in-law was not an example of a government being strict but acting against blatant illegality.
The Minister of the Interior pointed out that once one operative from such cliques is arrested, all those connected with them are weakened because of the nature of modern-day technology.
He explained that the first thing the police will do after arresting anyone associated with corruption is to check their smartphones and their online activity.
‘Foolish people are the prey of smart people. Police officers are smart people,’ the minister told the press. ‘It is good that no one is above the law. It should be clear that if you’re being chased and arrested, what kind of gangster are you?’
Anutin said the junior minister called to assure him. Chada tells reporters he acted both as the Deputy Interior Minister and the Father of his family
Mr Anutin confirmed that Deputy Interior Minister Chada had contacted him directly after his son-in-law’s arrest; it has also emerged that the senior Interior Minister had ordered the Governor of Uthai Thani to suspend the Mayor of the subdistrict from his duties before his resignation came voluntarily at 11 pm on Tuesday night, following a strict instruction from his father-in-law.
On Wednesday, Mr Chada said that it was vital that he demonstrated his faith in line with the spirit of the law as the minister responsible but, at the same time, explained to reporters that he was close to his family and asked that the media not intrude on the privacy of his son-in-law’s family including his grandchildren.
He told reporters that he had instructed his son-in-law to resign on Tuesday night so that new elections could be held to elect a new mayor of the sub-district while acknowledging that the police involved in the case were doing their duty.
He explained that as the Deputy Minister of the Interior and the person responsible for the anti-corruption campaign, he had to balance his duty as a minister and as a father-in-law, and that’s what he had set about to do on Tuesday night in the aftermath of his son-in-law’s arrest.