Big Joke’s reputation is threatened as an online gambling scandal rocks the Royal Thai Police. The high-profile deputy chief stoutly denies allegations amidst an intense ongoing investigation. There is now open internal strife within the force. The Prime Minister urges fairness and defends General Surachate’s right to be presumed innocent. Public trust in law enforcement is now at another low ebb. It comes as a further murky affair threatens the reputation of a policeman who has long been seen as an anti-corruption campaigner and hero.

On Friday, National Police Chief General Torsak Sukwimol moved to try to limit reputational damage to the Royal Thai Police. It comes as the country’s most popular police officer, General Surachate Hakparn, finds himself battling to protect his good name. It came amid reports that the deputy police chief was on the verge of being summoned by investigators over alleged links to online gambling websites. General Surachate vehemently protested his innocence. At length, he also linked the swirling reports to a bizarre police raid on his home last September.

Deputy National Police Chief General Surachate Hakparn or ‘Big Joke’ insisted he was not connected to any probe into illegal online gambling websites. General Surachate said there was no link between him and illegality. The top cop instead suggested that a campaign was afoot to discredit him and linked it to a bizarre police raid on his home in Bangkok in September 2023. This was days before he lost out in his bid to become Thailand’s police chief. At the same time, National Police Chief General Torsak Sukwimol (inset right), on Friday, tried to broker talks between General Surachate and General Jaroonkiat Pankaew (inset left) of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB). This police unit is leading a probe into online gambling. In short, this includes a network called ‘Minnies’ which investigators claim is linked to subordinates of General Surachate.

This occurred just days before the new police chief was chosen. The senior officer had been widely tipped for the role.

On Friday, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin emphasised that General Surachate was innocent of any charges until proven otherwise.

He insisted to reporters he would say nothing that could be construed as disrespecting the policeman’s good name.

Controversy linked to an investigation into subordinate officers of the top police commander linked to a woman named ‘Minnie’ and online gambling sites

In a flurry of accusations and counter-accusations, Deputy National Police Chief General Surachate Hakparn is under pressure.

General Surachate vehemently denies any involvement with online gambling networks.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, he made it clear that no charges have been laid against him. This comes despite rumours swirling earlier in the week.

The controversy stems from an ongoing investigation into an online gambling network with links established to subordinate officers. This network was allegedly operated by Suchanun Sucharitchinsri, also known as ‘Minnie.’

Allegations against subordinates of Big Joke form the basis for the eight arrest warrants issued by the Bangkok South Municipal Court on Friday 22nd 

On Thursday, General Jaroonkiat Pankaew, a senior Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) officer, said the network had a turnover of ฿25 – ฿30 million. However, it was linked to a broader probe of sites with up to ฿300 million in circulation. 

It is understood that the probe into illegal gambling websites began in February 2023. The extensive inquiry was linked to reports of Royal Thai Police involvement and rising public concern.

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Officers warned of a thin line between crime and policing as the force confronts website extortion case

Indeed, General Surachate Hakparn last year had knowledge of this phenomenon. The deputy police chief has a wide-ranging role as a problem solver or ‘fixer’ within the force.

In May 2023, he revealed Thailand’s biggest-ever mass serial killer was driven to murder due to online gambling.

Am Cyanide as the cyanide poisoner was nicknamed, allegedly needed cash to fund a ฿1 million a day habit.

General Surachate summoned top police officers last year linked with extorting money from gambling website owners after they reported the matter to police

General Surachate has been involved in cases linked with online gambling networks. This is due to the nature of his role within the Royal Thai Police.

Afterwards, in June, the deputy police chief was involved in a complicated case.

This involved senior officers who were alleged to be extorting money from illegal gambling website operators.

The deputy police chief pursued the group who fought back against him bitterly. At length, they even lodged a petition with the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG).

At that time, whistleblower Chuwit Kamolvisit warned that the consequences would be internal feuding within the Royal Thai Police.

Certainly, now in 2024, eight individuals, including some of General Surachate’s subordinates, face potential charges related to the current case. 

At the same time, General Surachate or ‘Big Joke’ himself insists he has no connection to any illegality.

This week, he pointed out that a case linked with ฿300 million should be pursued by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI).

In such a case, he explained, the police would be prohibited from being involved.

Big Joke has confirmed that there is an ongoing complaint with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). He insisted he is entitled to due process

The top police officer has however confirmed an ongoing inquiry by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

Big Joke emphasised that while a complaint had been received, by that body, no formal proceedings had been initiated against him.

Neither had there been against others named in recent media reports. He stressed the need for due process and maintained his innocence until proven otherwise.

However, tensions later escalated with the Deputy Commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), Police Major General Jaroonkiat Pankaew.

The CIB officer announced that Surachate and four other officers were under investigation for potential charges.

Top Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) officer is currently leading a massive probe into corruption within the government and the extortion of officials

The senior police officer is currently leading another high-profile probe into widespread extortion within the government service. He intimated that there may be a case to answer in the ongoing gambling website probe.

Police Major General Jaroonkiat identified offences such as malfeasance and accepting bribes. 

Furthermore, he highlighted the involvement of high-level police officers in the case. In addition, he suggested that the police and not the NACC should handle the investigation.

This was due to the complexity and scale of the network. General Jaroonkiat, for instance, pointed out that there were 61 different suspects.

General Surachate fired back at these reports.

Big Joke insisted that these claims and actions being taken against officers linked with his command, must be traced back to the highly unusual police raid on his home in September 2023.

Big Joke insists that a bizarre raid on his home must be seen in the context of the claims and potential charges being mooted against him to cause discredit

The raid came days before the appointment by a new Royal Thai Police Commander and Chief. The decision was taken by a high-level board chaired by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.

General Surachate was considered the leading contender to take on the role.

The top cop claims that search warrants were issued by a Bangkok Court for his home. In brief, the warrants failed to identify him as the occupant despite evidence that police leading the raid were aware it was his home address. 

Nothing suspicious was found in an exhaustive search of the deputy commissioner’s abode.

Nevertheless, on Thursday, he emphasised that the police operation that day was neither transparent nor straightforward. 

Big Joke insists that an attempt is in motion to discredit him.

He also questions whether he had any power to block any crackdown on online gambling websites.

Similarly, he asked reporters to explain how he had financially benefited from such activities.

Big Joke strongly rejects the CIB’s attempt to take over the investigation from the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) as ‘overstepping the mark’

The country’s most popular police officer rejected the call for the NACC to hand the case back to the police.

This comes with reports of the NACC itself asking the police force to clarify certain findings and submissions to it.

In a moment of exasperation, he seemed to address the other senior officer. ‘Who are you to pressure the NACC? This is clearly overstepping the mark,’ General Surachate exclaimed.

Moreover, he was adamant that he had no power to suppress online gambling websites. He was dismissive of any notion of financial links to the illicit operations.

The top cop even suggested that he encouraged his mother to participate in police enquiries. Unquestionably, he had nothing to fear.

‘I can explain everything about merit and making various donations. It’s not tax evasion. I pay every baht. I’m happy to check whether there are any unusually wealthy behaviours. Along with confirming that there is no financial route from any gambling website to and from me. The money line may relate to close relatives. I was happy to invite my mother to come in for questioning. Because no one is involved with any gambling website,’ General Surachate said on Thursday.

Prime Minister made clear the need to uphold General Surachate’s presumption of innocence in this matter on Friday but wants it addressed and put to bed

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin weighed in on the matter.

The PM affirmed Surachate’s presumption of innocence. At the same time, he emphasised the need for a fair and transparent process. The Prime Minister declined to comment on the nature of the current speculation.

He was responding to suggestions that the controversy was a deliberate attempt to discredit General Surachate. Big Joke is still tipped as a leading contender to head the Royal Thai Police in the future.

Nevertheless, the PM made it clear that the allegations being put forward were serious matters. He insisted police must pursue the case according to the evidence.

In the meantime, he would be careful not to disrespect the good name and reputation of the deputy police chief.

At the same time, the PM expressed concern about the swirling reports. He was clear that it was time for the police to get to the bottom of them.

‘If news gets out that public defenders are involved in illegal matters, trust and confidence in their safety will be diminished. Here, I would like it to be proven quickly. Using the law as the basis. By being fair to all parties as well. and the accused party in particular,’ Mr Srettha said.

Big Joke insisted he had not been summoned

As the controversy deepened on Friday, General Surachate addressed additional allegations. 

This includes a ‘leaked report’ suggesting his imminent summons by the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau (CCIB). He categorically denied receiving any such summons.

At length, the deputy police chief reiterated his innocence regarding any involvement in online gambling activities.

The situation took a legal turn when Surachate’s subordinates filed a lawsuit against two police generals. In short, they alleged misconduct in the issuance of search and arrest warrants.

Surachate himself criticised the handling of the search of his house in September last year. In turn, he cited procedural irregularities and questioned the motives behind the operation.

Big Joke’s career suffers another setback as Torsak gets top job after Police Commission meeting

With conflicting narratives emerging from different quarters, the public’s trust in law enforcement has again been called into question. 

Police chief tries to calm the waters as damage to the reputation of the police force grows with top officers communicating via the media differing views 

The Prime Minister’s call for fairness and adherence to the rule of law underlines the importance of a thorough and impartial investigation.

Massive extortion network within the government itself now probed by police after Srisuwan’s arrest

On Friday, the National Police Commissioner General Torsak Sukwimol was reported to be trying to organise a meeting within the force. This was to be between himself, General Surachate and Police Major General Jaroonkiat.

It is understood that the police chief wants to see better communication between the two senior police officers.

Notwithstanding this, the involvement of one of Thailand’s most trusted police officers in what is a murky affair is a disturbing development for the Thai public.

Not the first controversy in Big Joke’s career after he was mysteriously removed from his police role in 2019 and reinstated again in 2021 at a high-level

In addition, it is not the first time that General Surachate’s career has been in jeopardy. In 2019, he was sensationally removed from his role as Immigration Bureau Chief and transferred to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Despite the public never receiving a full explanation, he was later reinstated at Royal Thai Police headquarters in April 2021. It is another bizarre story that has never been fully explained.

‘Big Joke’ replaced by ‘Big Oud’ as Deputy PM says ‘case closed’ on departure from his previous role
Big Joke promoted to a new role at police HQ working on reform of the force from April after reshuffle
Second time around for ‘Big Joke’ who is known by the public as a police crusader against corruption particularly in the ranks of the Royal Thai Police

Afterwards, it was widely speculated that the removal of General Surachate was linked to an internal conflict.

Years later, the top cop and other officers gave evidence to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) over a procurement contract at the Immigration Bureau which General Surachate wanted to rescind.

Known by the public as an anti-corruption campaigner

General Surachate has always been widely seen as an anti-corruption campaigner, especially against crooked officers within the force.

In recent months, for example, he expressed his disgust at the police force. This came after the murder of an elderly woman in Sa Kaeo Province was initially covered up.

Big Joke expresses disgust over the Sa Kaeo police case. A stunning discovery of foul injustice in play

It comes as a widening probe into the alleged extortion of civil servants continues. The suspects in that case are a clique with links to the government and indeed constitutional activist, Srisuwan Janya. 

This case, in particular, has completely undermined any sense that corruption in Thailand was being tackled or brought under control.

If anything, the situation grows more grotesque. Undoubtedly, it severely damages confidence in the kingdom with consequent economic costs as well as the loss of public trust.

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Further reading:

Top cop Big Joke’s career suffers setback as Torsak gets top job after Police Commission meeting

General Surachate Hapkarn or Big Joke reported in the running to be Thailand’s next Police Chief 

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

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

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

General Surachate Hakparn heads to India to train as a monk after requesting work leave of absence 

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