BIG JOKE ON THE BRINK AS TOP COP FACES SUSPENSION | Deputy Police Chief General Surachate Hakparn, aka ‘Big Joke,’ fights a potential career-ending crisis as Police Chief General Torsak threatens suspension amid an online gambling network probe.Summoned on Sunday by police in Bangkok, General Surachate’s next move comes amid white-hot tensions at the top of the force. A legal battle looms as he continues to protest his innocence. The top cop’s future is in peril.

Deputy National Police Chief General Surachate Hakparn or ‘Big Joke’ is fighting for his career this week. It comes as Police Chief General Torsak Sukwimol has underlined his support for an investigation linked with gambling network BNK Master which has implicated the top police officer on money laundering charges. On Sunday, March 17th as General Surachate was in Chiang Mai running security for Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and ex-Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, a police unit of five officers and two pickups delivered a summons in relation to the ongoing criminal probe to his home in Bangkok.

Deputy Police Chief General Surachate Hakparn is scheduled to give a high-profile press conference in Bangkok on Tuesday with his legal team. It comes following a police summons to his home on Sunday, 17th March 2024 (inset right), by two police vehicles. On Monday, Police Chief General Torsak Sukwimol raised the charges to threaten Big Joke’s suspension.

At the same time, the police chief, on Monday, threatened to suspend the top police officer from duty. Meanwhile, the only recourse, at this point, is for General Surachate to have this latest investigation halted or sidelined. The alternative is that the deputy police chief’s career may face a similar fate in a matter of days.

Top cop General Surachate Hakparn or ‘Big Joke’ will face the media with his lawyers on Tuesday in Bangkok. It comes as elements within the Royal Thai Police are moving against him linked with online gambling website cases.

The moves are the upshot of a raid on his home last September which scuppered his appointment as police chief at that time.

It is not as yet clear what the exact substance of the accusations against the policeman is. Certainly, General Surchate denies any culpability. 

Charges of money laundering being pursued by an investigative team within the Metropolitan Police Bureau force linked with gambling network BNK Master

The charges against him are of money laundering. In effect, the financial trail of money linked to an online gambling network.

However, the move against the well-known anti-corruption policeman must also be seen in a political light. Already removed once mysteriously from his role as Immigration Bureau chief in 2019, this case is raising eyebrows.

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

Afterwards, General Surachate was linked to a later complaint filed by him with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). 

This was in relation to a large ฿2.1 billion procurement contract. Evidently, General Surachate opposed the contract before his abrupt removal from his top Immigration Bureau role.

Divided and dysfunctional police force at the top as the struggle between General Surachate Hapkarn and those pursuing him has now been revealed openly

Undoubtedly also, the effort to have General Surachate prosecuted by police in relation to the online gambling case has opened up a chasm at the top of the force. In addition, there are political dimensions.

Significantly, General Surachate spent last weekend in Chiang Mai handling security for the visit of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.

At the same time, he also met many high-level ministers and was linked to the welcome in the northern city for ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Meanwhile, previously commenting on these police investigations, Prime Minister Srettha has underlined the need for police investigators to do their work unimpeded. Similarly, this is the line also being taken by National Police Chief General Torsak.

Police chief Torsak threatens to suspend the high-profile deputy police chief. The move would bring to an end General Surachate’s extraordinary career

The police chief even announced on Monday the potential suspension of his deputy, General Surachate Hakparn. 

General Torsak specified that this was linked to an investigation into his alleged ties to an online gambling network. 

That probe, he said, is focusing on the BNK Master gambling website. The police chief suggested the resolution of the case should come before Torsak’s retirement in September.

At the same time, General Surachate with his political links and popularity among the public has been seen as the leading candidate for the top job.

High profile police officer, even on Monday, was handling the controversial case in Phuket linked with New Zealand tourists who assaulted a policeman

Even as reports of his ultimate demise swirled in Bangkok on Monday, the deputy chief was ordering the revocation of visas for two New Zealand men who viciously attacked an on-duty policeman in Phuket on Saturday.

New Zealand men face serious charges after a violent attack on a police officer in Phuket on Saturday

Significantly, he appears to have the confidence of leading figures within the government. Nonetheless, his position is precarious. In short, this was made sharply clear by General Torsak when speaking with reporters.

‘Surachate is suspected of money laundering,’ General Torsak declared bluntly. 

He emphasised the importance of concluding the case before his own retirement. Despite being a leading candidate for Torsak’s position, Big Joke stoutly maintains his innocence. At length, he promised further details via his lawyer on March 19.

Crime campaigner, formerly a fan of Big Joke, appears to have turned against him. On Monday, he submitted a query to the Interior Ministry on gun licences 

On Monday, one anti-crime campaigner Atchariya Ruangrattanapong, President of the Crime Victims Assistance Club, a one-time supporter and admirer of Big Joke, was clear.

He predicted the end of General Surchate’s career by May. Mr Athciriya alleged the evidence was available from associates of the top policeman and gambling website money trails.

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

Certainly, this is the reason for General Surcachate’s forthcoming press conference. General Surachate continues to vehemently deny the charges being levelled against him.

Mr Atchariya said this as he petitioned the Ministry of the Interior for information on 200 gun licences issued to the top cop.

Big Joke due to appear at Tao Poon Police Station this Thursday to acknowledge the money laundering charges being put before him by a Bangkok investigation

Surachate, known by the public affectionately as ‘Big Joke’, was summoned to Tao Poon Police Station this Thursday.

Markedly, this is regarding the BNK Master online gambling network probe. Certainly not the Minnie’s Gambling network. The latter case has already been taken over by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

The national police commander told reporters that any failure by General Surachate to comply could lead to an arrest warrant and his suspension.

General Torsak clarified that the National Anti-Corruption Commission was handling a separate case, that of Minnie’s gambling network.

Thung Song Hong Police attempted to serve the summons to Surachate on Sunday 17th March. However, General Surachate was absent due to his duties protecting senior ministers and political figures in Chiang Mai.

In effect, the investigation team into the online gambling website case assigned Thung Song Hong Police Station to bring a summons to Police General Surachate.

In turn, it was delivered to his residence but then taken back by officers. It requires that he acknowledges the money laundering charges on March 21 at the police station.

New summons on Sunday came out of the blue 

The serving of the new summons on Sunday came out of the blue.

In short, the incident was quite similar to the mysterious police raid on General Surachate’s home in September 2023.

On this occasion, however, security at the housing complex on Soi Vibhavadi 60 in the capital stopped the two police pickups. 

The officers were questioned for 22 minutes. Afterwards, the two vehicles and five police officers placed the summons on General Surchate’s home. However, a senior officer later accepted it had not been served. The residence is located near the Police Club in the capital where the deputy chief works from.

Big Joke’s career suffers another setback as Torsak gets top job after Police Commission meeting
Big Joke fights for his name as summons rumours swirl around him linked with online gambling site network

It follows weeks of rumours and speculation.

Previously, in the last week, police applied for an arrest warrant linked with General Surachate and the BNK Master gambling network. 

Although warrants in respect of some police associated with General Surachate were issued by the Criminal Court, it refused to order the senior officer’s arrest. 

In short, this is on the basis of his seniority within the police and concern for the officer’s good name. In addition, the court noted he was known to have an address in the capital.

Police sources are suggesting that the evidence against General Surachate exists although he consistently denies any wrongdoing and professes innocence

Consequently, the investigation continues. Police sources on Monday were affirming that the action against the top cop is based on evidence and witness statements.

The media were told that this was not harassment of the well-liked policeman and contender for the top job. 

On Monday, General Torsak said that he was prepared to sign suspension orders if Big Joke faces criminal charges.

On the other hand, General Surachate’s legal team are promising the full truth about the affair on Tuesday. Unquestionably, they are challenging the investigation’s legality.

Indeed, it is clear that if this investigation proceeds, General Surachate may be suspended and ultimately sidelined. He faces the real prospect of an end to his extraordinary career.

Despite the tensions and the clear schism within the police ranks at the top, General Torsak insisted on Monday that every action taken was rooted in evidence. 

General Surachate’s summons has sparked a legal and administrative tug of war. In truth, this is certainly creating dangerous dysfunction within the force.

Undoubtedly it is raising questions about the leadership of Thailand’s already embattled police service.

Sunday’s manoeuvre by Bangkok-based police while General Surachate was away in Chiang Mai with senior politicians leads to a crisis point for the top cop

On Sunday, Thung Song Hong Police dispatched five officers to Surachate’s residence. At length, they bore a notice or summons issued by Metropolitan Police Division 2. The document summoned General Surachate to acknowledge money laundering charges. In short, it aimed to ensure compliance with legal procedures.

However, initial attempts faced resistance from security guards, delaying the serving of the summons.

Police insisted on executing their duty, highlighting the significance of the investigation. After negotiations, officers gained access to Surachate’s residence, but his absence necessitated a return of the summons.

Police Colonel Chisanupong Suriyanon, superintendent of Thung Song Hong Police Station, clarified that Surachate’s absence resulted in the summons’ return.

He reiterated the importance of adhering to procedural norms, emphasising the legal significance of the summons.

Meanwhile, Surachate, during his absence, remained in Chiang Mai, attending to official duties. He expressed awareness of the summons. At the same time, he reiterated his innocence.

In brief, he promised to address the issue through legal channels.

High stakes now at play in this cat-and-mouse game

General Surachate’s steadfast denial of involvement in the alleged online gambling network emphasises the high stakes that are at play.

On the line is the career of Thailand’s best-loved police officer. In addition, perhaps the future leadership of the Royal Thai Police.

At the same time, it is too late to disguise the rift that now exists between the current police chief and his leading deputy, certainly in relation to his case.

Nevertheless, Police General Torsak, discussing the case, still emphasises that there’s no intention to persecute General Surachate.

Rather, he contends all actions are based on evidence and witness testimony. In short, the pursuit of justice and normal police enquiries.

On Monday, he reiterated the commitment to uphold justice, regardless of the individual’s stature or position.

The legal saga surrounding General Surachate’s summons reflects broader and deeper concerns about the police force in Thailand.

As a prominent figure in the Thai police force and indeed a figure seen as the kingdom’s top anti-corruption fighter, Big Joke’s involvement in these legal proceedings is disturbing.

Certainly, this is the case for many ordinary Thais and some foreigners in the kingdom. For others, perhaps more cynical, it highlights a new low in public confidence in the force.

Big Joke’s legal team are adamant that this is a concerted campaign to discredit the top police officer ahead of his chance to take the top job this year

Surachate’s lawyer, Nathawit Netijarurote, has emphasised the need for a fair and impartial investigation.

He denounced any attempts to discredit the deputy chief for political or personal gain. He has urged a thorough examination of the evidence.

The top cop’s legal team argues that this is a job specifically for the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). This is in view of the high-profile nature of General Surachate’s job.

In short, they are openly suggesting a campaign to oust the deputy police chief. An effort to thwart his chances of taking on the top job.

The legal team will argue that this case requires third-party oversight given the existence of internal rivalries.

In response to the summons, General Surachate’s legal team, on Sunday, announced plans for a press conference on March 19. They aim to provide clarity on Surachate’s legal situation and challenge the validity of the investigation.

Big Joke’s absence during the serving of the summons adds another intriguing aspect to this case.

The fact that this was due to his attendance on Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and other political figures including former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, makes the affair even more intriguing.

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Further reading:

Big Joke fights for his name as summons rumours swirl around him linked with online gambling site network

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