Last week’s arrest of Srisuwan Janya appeared to be an earthquake. However, as police dig their teeth into a widening and terrifying trail of corruption and extortion, it looks increasingly likely that last week was a tremor and the real shocks have yet to come.
The case involving the dramatic arrest of activist Srisuwan Janya last week including two arrests at Government House, has this week continued to send ripples of trepidation across the political world in Thailand. Police are confident that they are now dealing with an extensive network working within the wider government itself which was systematically targeting civil servants and officials for extortion. A fourth arrest was made by police on Thursday and police have let it be known that at least two further arrests are already in the pipeline.
Thursday saw a development in the widening scandal following the sensational arrest of constitutional activist Srisuwan Janya last Friday.
A fourth suspect was arrested by police in Bangkok.
Srisuwan, a well-known whistleblower was detained just hours before two associates of the United Thai Nation Party (UTN), were arrested on January 26th last.
Police believe at least ฿100 million has already been extorted by the group but the investigation is still expanding. Victims appear to be civil servants
Both were arrested by police at Government House.
At length, this came after senior police liaised with the UTN leader and Deputy Prime Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga.
Senior policemen working on the case have been briefing the press all week.
The scope of the probe has now expanded. At this point, it involves up to ฿100 million in extorted payments. Police are now anxiously looking to speak to other potential victims.
Officers are also looking at a wide and sophisticated network which has been extorting money from officials in government service. Therefore, police are moving stealthily and carefully.
Fourth person taken in and released on bail is understood to be a key mastermind in the complex scheme based on his extensive knowledge of state budgets
On Friday, Mr Eakluck Wareechol was identified as the fourth person detained in the high-profile extortion case.
In truth, this expanding probe has the potential to become an explosive political issue.
Despite this, during the week, ministers and politicians were at pains to emphasise that the matter was for the police. By and large, they declined to comment.
Significantly, at least one of those arrested so far has extensive affiliations with a number of parties in the House of Representatives. At the same time, there is nervousness about what will finally be revealed.
On Friday, the top policeman leading the inquiry spoke of an evil incubus at the centre of the affair.
This person is thought to be outside those arrested so far.
In the meantime, it is reported that intensive pressure is being applied to halt or stymie the expanding investigation.
Pressure is being brought to bear to halt or stymie the investigation which is gaining momentum with every new revelation to investigators working on it
The latest suspect was apprehended on Thursday morning at his residence in the Khlong Sam Wa district of Bangkok. This arrest is linked to the initial detention of serial petitioner Srisuwan Janya last Friday.
In turn, within hours of that development last week, there was the arrest of Yoswaris Chuklom, alias Jeng Dokjik and Ms Pimanattha Jiraputthiphak. The latter are former associates of Deputy Prime Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga. In addition, they were appointed by him previously to a key supervisory board.
Police are currently awaiting written confirmation from the minister’s office that these appointments have been reversed.
However, the deputy prime minister has already confirmed their removal.
Similarly, top United Thai Nation Party (UTN) figures have moved to disassociate the government party from the pair.
The three people arrested first were suspected of extorting money from Natthakit Khongthip, the director-general of the Rice Department.
Thursday’s arrest by the investigation team is considered highly significant. Police are increasingly aware of a wider and more extensive network at work
The probe itself is a joint operation.
It involves police and officials from the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC). On Thursday, it led to the arrest of Eakluck Wareechol.
This arrest is seen as a highly significant development in the ongoing investigation.
The police, acting on credible information, seized three boxes of documents from Mr Eakluck’s residence. These documents are expected to provide valuable information about the alleged extortion and the wider network of individuals involved.
The main suspect so far, Mr Srisuwan, was also apprehended at his residence.
He was accused of demanding a substantial sum of ฿3 million from Mr Natthakit.
The Two alleged accomplices, Mr Yoswaris, also known as Jeng Dokjik, and Ms Phimnattha surrendered to police hours later at Government House.
Subsequently, they were arrested. Following intense questioning, they were afterwards released on bail.
Man arrested by police on Thursday was a mastermind, go-between and broker who liaised with a ‘Mr Mu’ who is understood to be a top ministerial advisor
Eakluck Wareechol is believed to be a key figure in the plot. Police suggest he acted as a broker between a mysterious figure identified as Mr Mu.
The latter is understood to have collaborated with Mr Srisuwan and Mr Yoswaris.
Nevertheless, at this point, police are not yet certain whether this individual is an important witness or a suspect in the case.
Meanwhile, it is understood from police sources that Mr Mu is an adviser to a senior cabinet minister.
Details of this person’s identity were, at the start of the week, withheld by police until the investigation progressed further.
Eakluck’s arrest now brings the police another step forward towards penetrating what appears to be a corrupt circle of influence and extortion within the wider Thai government.
Authorities, this week, continued to expand their search and queries.
Raid in Uttaradit province as police say there are certainly further suspects in this case. Mr Mu reported to be an advisor at the Ministry of Agriculture
In short, they raided a house in Uttaradit looking for another suspect. Senior officers have suggested that there may still be up to three further arrests.
Afterwards, Police Major General Jaroonkiat Pankaew, deputy commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) revealed that ‘Mr Mu’, was an adviser to Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thammanat Prompow.
However, it remains unclear whether Mr Mu had any involvement in the extortion scheme. Certainly, it is possible that he may be essentially a source of information for other parties.
As the investigation progresses, Police Major General Jaroonkiat has emphasised the possibility of additional suspects emerging.
‘As more evidence continues to emerge, we cannot yet conclude there are just these five suspects,’ he told the press.
Yaswaris or Jeng Dokjik forcefully declared his innocence to the press. Simultaneously, he cursed anyone telling lies or making false claims against him
In response to the allegations, Yoswaris Chuklom and Phimnattha Chiraphutthiphak organised a press conference midweek. In short order, they vehemently asserted their innocence.
Yoswaris detailed his involvement in an earlier probe into the suspicious procurement plan for a ฿1.18 billion aircraft. This was for use by the Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation (DoRRAA).
Upon discovering irregularities, Yoswaris and Srisuwan decided to file a petition to the House committee monitoring the state budget.
In turn, according to Mr Yoswaris, this led to them uncovering evidence of corruption within the Rice Department.
Mr Yoswaris said he was shocked to subsequently become the person investigated. He also promised to curse anyone involved in wronging him.
Police Major General Charoonkiat, on Friday, provided insights into progress so far after interrogating Eakalak. He confirmed that he is, at this time, a key suspect in the extortion case.
The policeman also welcomed Mr Yoswaris’s press conference as helping to provide information to investigators.
Figure arrested on Thursday, also known as ‘Aek Paknam’, is understood to be a pivotal figure in the probe. Police see him as a skilled and adept player
Eakalak initially denied involvement during informal questioning.
However, he is understood to have provided significant information to assist police enquiries.
Subsequently, when confronted during the official investigation, he refused to divulge details. Nevertheless, officials are confident in the evidence gathered for a successful prosecution.
Acknowledging Eakalak as a central figure, the police officer referred to him as ‘Aek Paknam’ in the proceedings.
Similarly, he noted his significance. He is a key figure in orchestrating the corruption, he said. Describing him as the mastermind, he highlighted Aek Paknam’s role in manipulating the situation.
‘If he was not skilled, he would not be able to control Sri,’ he explained, emphasising the depth of Aek Paknam’s involvement.
Police Major General Charoonkiat said Eakalak’s knowledge and information come from various committees and a lifetime spent in parliament.
Investigation is not only expanding, it is also gaining in intensity as zealous police officers grasp the scale and audacity of what has been going on
This background positioned him to gather information on corruption and the misuse of budgets across ministries and departments.
In effect, it also enabled him to play a pivotal role in suppressing corruption in multiple cases.
This investigation will now intensify even further.
There are plans to issue arrest warrants for 2-3 more individuals within the coming week. Police Major General Charoonkiat urged patience.
In addition, he emphasised the meticulous examination of CCTV footage before proceeding with further arrests.
Concerns were raised regarding the potential involvement of Mr Srisuwan’s wife.
Investigators, at this time, are examining her participation or intent in the alleged crime. While the evidence is reportedly sufficient, the decision on her role – as an accused or a witness – is pending.
The policeman suggested a resolution to this question is expected by the following Tuesday.
Investigating officers have expressed some sympathy for the position of Ms Srisunwan’s wife and Ms Pimanattha. There is a suggestion that they both got caught up in events.
A press conference on Friday shed light on the broader context of the case.
‘Aek Paknam’ released on bail of ฿400,000 cash
Police Major General Prasong Chalermphan, commander of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) gave a briefing on Friday.
In short, he disclosed that after seven hours of interrogation, Eakalak submitted a ฿400,000 cash security for bail.
The CIB is now poised to apprehend three additional members of the Srisuwan gang. Certainly this further underlines the pervasive nature of this corruption case.
Deputy Commander-in-Chief Police Major General Charoonkiat expressed confidence in the ongoing investigation.
He refutes any allegations of mistreatment and has emphasised the importance of legal procedures.
Previously, Mr Srisuwan complained of being bullied by police under intense questioning following his arrest last week.
Top policeman responds to Deputy Prime Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga defending the conduct of arresting officers on Friday last at Government House
In addition, the senior police officer responded politely this week to comments expressed by Deputy Prime Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga.
This concerns the dramatic nature of the arrests made last Friday at Government House. Police Major General Charoonkiat pointed out that these arrests came after consultations with top officials within the seat of government.
The detentions were carried out discreetly by ranking officers.
At the same time, he pointed out that all members of the Royal Thai Police have the power to arrest any suspect.
He insisted that full respect had been shown. At the same time, he said respect should correspondingly be shown to police officers.
Political shock. Activist Srisuwan arrested in police swoop, plainclothes officers at Government House
Significantly, these arrests only took place after Mr Sira Jenjaka was taken into custody. Afterwards, the other two suspects were arrested after voluntarily surrendering to police.