PM APPOINTS TEMPORARY POLICE CHIEF | Prime Minister intervenes after revelations of massive police corruption. General Surachate Hakparn and Police Chief General Torsak Sukwimol were temporarily assigned and investigations are underway. National Anti-Corruption Commission takes over Big Joke’s cases. Scandal rocks Thai Police.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin was forced to make a dramatic intervention in the affairs of the Royal Thai Police on Wednesday. It came after a devastating press conference on Tuesday. In short, this revealed allegations of industrialised corruption within the force. The press conference given by lawyers and representatives of General Surachate Hakparn or Big Joke raised serious concerns about ongoing efforts to prosecute the deputy police chief. As a result, lawyers for Big Joke petitioned the PM. On Wednesday, in a dramatic move, both the national police chief, General Torsak Sukwimol and General Surachate, were assigned to the Prime Minister’s Office for 60 days. 

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin speaks to reporters in a televised address avidly watched all over Thailand on Wednesday. It came after he met National Police Commissioner General Torsak Sukwimol and Deputy National Police Commissioner General Surachate Hakparn (left). Both officers were assigned to the Prime Minister’s Office while an investigational panel of three people was appointed. It comes in response to a crisis within the force and shocking revelations presented by lawyers for General Surachate on Tuesday into corruption linked to the illegal gambling website BNK Master (right). Afterwards, both senior officers also gave a press conference and appeared on friendly terms.

A temporary replacement for General Torsak was appointed. In the meantime, a three-member panel will investigate and report on the scandal. Undoubtedly it is already an affair that has damaged the reputation of the force.

At the same time, all cases linked to General Surachate were handed over to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). 

The outcome is that General Surachate’s career, previously under imminent threat, has been protected temporarily. His lawyers told the Prime Minister that there was a contrived plot to discredit and oust the popular policeman.

Press conference given after a few days of high drama by both of the top cops at the helm of the Royal Thai Police. They appeared to be on friendly terms

Afterwards, National Police Chief General Torsak Sukwimol at a joint press conference, welcomed the developments. The chief, who is retiring in September, said it was in the interests of justice.

Both the police chief and his deputy appeared on friendly terms and indeed in high spirits. At the same time, General Surachate looked quite serious when some key details were aired.

On Wednesday, PM Srettha Thavisin held a conference attended by General Torsak, the police chief and his deputy Surachate Hakparn. The upshot was that both officers were temporarily relieved of their duties for 60 days. The pair are to be assigned to the Prime Minister’s Office.

In the meantime, a committee of senior civil servants is to conduct its own enquiries. In effect, it will investigate the claims against General Surachate and the controversy. Similarly, the case linked with the BNK Master website is to be handed over to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

General Surachate’s lawyers brought the matter to the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday as a matter of urgency. At that point, his career was in peril

At length, it followed an appeal by lawyers acting on behalf of embattled General Surachate on Tuesday. With the deputy chief’s career in imminent danger, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin took decisive action.

The move has certainly rescued the country’s popular deputy chief of police in the near term. Furthermore, it may even have put those within the Royal Thai Police allegedly seeking to oust him on the back foot.

On March 20, 2024, at 2:30 pm. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin held a press conference at Government House. He announced the temporary restructuring of the Royal Thai Police at the helm. 

This was followed by a signed order transferring Police General Torsak Sukwimol, Commissioner of the Royal Thai Police, and Police General Surachate Hakparn, Deputy Commissioner of the Royal Thai Police, to assist at the Prime Minister’s Office. 

Additionally, Police General Kittirat Phanphet was appointed to act on behalf of Police General Torsak.

The Prime Minister told reporters that the transfers were of a temporary nature and certainly not to be seen as a punishment. Both officers free to return

The Prime Minister emphasised that the transfers were temporary and certainly not a punishment. The move was intended to facilitate impartial investigations into ongoing controversies.

He also announced the formation of a three-member fact-finding committee to examine the allegations against certain police officers.

During the press conference, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin reaffirmed his commitment to upholding the rule of law. 

He said he wished to ensure justice without interference. Additionally, he stressed the importance of allowing the judicial process to proceed unhindered.

The PM urged all parties involved to cooperate fully with the investigations.

Mr Srettha then responded to questions about the composition of the fact-finding committee.

He revealed that it would include a police officer and a former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior. He insisted on the need for neutrality and impartiality in the committee’s proceedings.

Top official from the Ministry of the Interior and a police officer on the three-member panel to examine the affair and report back to the Prime Minister

When asked about his confidence in resolving conflicts within the police force, Prime Minister Srettha was coy but concise. In short, he expressed his determination to fulfil his constitutional duties. 

That means upholding the rule of law and restoring order to the police force.

While acknowledging the challenges ahead, he said he remained optimistic.

He adjudged that with time and adherence to due process, the issues would be resolved with justice and accountability.

Both Police General Torsak and Police General Surachate accepted their temporary reassignments. Both acknowledged the need for impartiality and transparency in addressing the allegations raised.

They expressed confidence in the neutrality of the fact-finding committee and pledged to cooperate fully with the investigations.

The announcement of the police shake-up immediately sparked widespread discussion online.

Vast public interest in the upheaval at the top within the Royal Thai Police. People are aware and concerned about corruption in the force and elsewhere

On social media sites such as X, netizens closely followed developments in the case. It was the top trending hashtag on the site.

This reflected the underlying public concern about this matter and corruption in Thailand.

Meanwhile, legal challenges remained.

Lawyers representing Police General Surachate continued to question the legality of legal moves against him already made by police. In turn, their fears were allayed.

The summons against General Surachate is expected now to be withdrawn with the new probe. 

That case, related to the BNK Master website is to be also taken up by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). This is in addition to the Minnie’s gambling network case.

In short, this is what Big Joke’s lawyers were looking for before Tuesday’s stunning press conference.

Devastating presentation by General Surachate’s lawyers on Tuesday saw stunning revelations into highly systemic police corruption linked to one website

On Tuesday, at a well-managed press conference, the lawyers for Big Joke made a devastating presentation. At least from the point of view of the reputation of the Royal Thai Police.

In it, it was revealed that General Surachate had no direct link whatsoever to the BNK Master illegal gambling website.

At the same time, it did identify 34 individuals, nearly all of them senior police officers. These policemen had direct financial links to the racket.

Certainly, it was some racket, generating between ฿400 and ฿600 million per annum. A point made by the top cop’s lawyers. 

General Surachate’s team said the scale of the illegality meant the case should not have been handled directly by police. It should have been handed over to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI).

At length, the presentation was even more damning.

Senior police officer addressed reporters giving an inside account of the corruption that is at play and that certainly did not include General Surachate

A Police Major General addressed the audience. In truth, he accepted his culpability in related matters.

Concerning online gambling, he made it clear that Big Joke was not among the guilty parties.

The scale of the corruption scandal aired in Bangkok, on Tuesday, is truly terrifying. In short, this is a scandal of unprecedented proportions. 

It has engulfed the Royal Thai Police at this time, alleged Big Jokes’s lawyers, precisely because General Surachate is on a path to the organisation’s leadership. The revelations on Tuesday have shaken the foundations of the force. 

Little wonder then that shockwaves through the corridors of power in Bangkok reached the top.

On Wednesday, they necessitated the intervention of the Prime Minister at lunchtime. Mr Srettha is ultimately responsible for all governance in Thailand. He also chairs the police board.

The turmoil in this case centres on just one illegal gambling syndicate, BNK Master.

National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) previously took up another case brought against General Surachate given his seniority and plans to discredit him

In the meantime, another case involving General Surachate had already been taken up by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

The reason for this was that it is believed that attempts were being made to target General Surachate. At length also, his seniority within the force was another key factor.

In short, his lawyers suggest he was being pursued through spurious financial links.

Indeed, this case highlights the danger of using trumped-up money laundering charges to target individuals.

This danger is activated when used by mendacious elements within the police force. In effect, transactions are often taken out of full context.

In short, this affair has now evolved into a full-blown crisis within the police force. Undoubtedly, it has already tarnished the force’s reputation irreparably. This is true no matter whose story you believe.

Online gambling is a web of addiction and corruption

The saga began with the discovery of the BNK Master illegal gambling website, which operated clandestinely.

Like others, it lured unsuspecting punters into its web of addiction. These operations are highly illegal in Thailand and for good reason. 

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Many Thais are inveterate gamblers if given the opportunity. At the same time, the Royal Thai Police itself regularly highlights the link between gambling and crime in the country. 

Notwithstanding this, the present government is moving towards legalising it. This is despite a disastrous short-term experiment in this regard in 1935.

The BNK Master site, known for its sophisticated operations, facilitated illegal gambling activities on a massive scale. Consequently, it raked in hundreds of millions of baht in profit.

However, the nefarious activities of BNK Master did not go unnoticed for long. 

BNK Master is a prime example of a highly lucrative but illegal online gambling site taken over by corrupt police officers offering to protect the racket

In a series of covert operations, law enforcement agencies, including the Royal Thai Police, managed to infiltrate the syndicate’s operations.  

Evidently, not only did it gather crucial evidence against its perpetrators, but it is feared that some police became silent partners.

On Tuesday, lawyers for General Surachate highlighted no less than 34 accounts, most of them belonging to senior police officers. In short, they were linked to the illicit activities of BNK Master and allegedly benefiting from its revenues.

The BNK Master case alone represents a significant stain on the reputation of the Royal Thai Police. It has exposed the deep-rooted corruption and collusion within its ranks.

The syndicate operated with impunity for years, exploiting legal loopholes and leveraging its connections to evade detection.

The mastermind behind BNK Master remains elusive. 

So far, this aspect is shrouded in mystery and protected by a network of corrupt officials. Despite concerted efforts by law enforcement agencies to dismantle the syndicate, its tentacles continued to spread.

Not only ensnaring more gambling victims but simultaneously perpetuating the cycle of corruption.

Enormous nature of this corruption coming at the same time as a divided police force at a senior level riven by suspicion and fear, is a seismic upheaval

The revelation of senior police involvement in the BNK Master scandal is a seismic upheaval within the Royal Thai Police. 

Internal divisions have emerged in the force. General Surachate is seen as a reformist. The popular policeman has already spearheaded action against corrupt officers against entrenched interests. This has led to clandestine factional infighting and chaos.

This was evidenced last September when police officers raided General Surcahayte’s home on Soi Vibhavadi in the Rangsit area of Bangkok. Force members were confused after realised it was the home of the deputy chief. His name was not on the search warrant.

Amidst the evidence emerging on Tuesday was a reference to female police officers involved in affairs with senior policemen.

Similarly, there was also a link to the notorious Kamnan Nok investigation. That scandal also produced an upheaval in the force. Here too, General Surachate was involved and ultimately sidelined.

This controversy erupted when a local kamnan or headman in Nakhon Pathom was charged with murdering a police officer. Afterwards, rampant corruption was uncovered with alleged links to the force and top civil servants.

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At the heart of the struggle lies a battle for the soul of the police force, with competing visions of integrity and accountability. These have clashed with entrenched corruption and impunity. 

The scandal has exposed deep-seated rot within the police and prompted soul-searching. Undoubtedly, the Thai public hopes for sweeping reforms.

Prime Minister’s decisive move on Wednesday is welcome. It not only preserved the career of a senior officer pending review but averted a deeper crisis

Amidst the escalating crisis, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has been forced to intervene. 

He wielded his authority to restore order and restore public trust in the police force.

On Wednesday, March 20, 2024, he took decisive action. He announced a series of measures to address the scandal and hold those responsible to account.

In a televised address carried on all media, Prime Minister Srettha condemned illegal gambling syndicates.

At the same time, he vowed to root out corruption within the police force.

He ordered the immediate suspension of all officers implicated in such scandals. He called for a thorough investigation to uncover the full extent of any wrongdoing.

Prime Minister Srettha’s swift response to the crisis has been praised.

This is a decisive move to avert a potential disaster for the Royal Thai Police. By taking proactive steps to address the scandal head-on, he has demonstrated leadership.

In the meantime, he undoubtedly has prevented an even deeper crisis. 

Fallout from the BNK Master case has only just begun. The shocking evidence produced by General Surachate’s lawyers on Tuesday must be fully addressed 

However, the fallout from the BNK Master scandal is far from over.

As investigations continue and more details emerge, the true extent of police corruption is likely to be laid bare. Indeed, it should be, if there is any hope to counter the wider threat.

Wednesday’s dramatic move to restore public trust and integrity within the Royal Thai Police by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is a major shake-up for the force.

As the investigations into the BNK Master scandal continue, all eyes will be on the fact-finding committee.

The alternative was continued internal turmoil and dysfunction within the Royal Thai Police.

Significantly, on Wednesday, General Torsak confirmed all ‘Big Joke’ cases were handed over to the anti-corruption agency. The decision was made to ensure impartiality.

Press conference from General Torsak along with General Surachate. The police chief confirmed all cases related to Big Joke would be handed to the NACC 

At a press conference held at police headquarters, Police General Torsak clarified matters: ‘All cases against Police General Surachate will be sent to the NACC, which is a neutral organisation so that justice can be guaranteed. This is to prevent any image of conflict. We have no conflict.’

Appearing alongside General Surachate, General Torsak during the press conference, emphasised their shared commitment to serving the public interest.

Police General Torsak reiterated his dedication to maintaining transparency and impartiality within the police force.

Certainly, he dismissed speculation that his decision was motivated by personal conflicts or ambitions. He stressed the importance of upholding the integrity of the justice system. At the same time, he said he wanted to see fair treatment for all individuals involved in such investigations.

‘I always say that we must remain above conflict. Do not interpret that as meaning there is conflict within the Royal Thai Police Office,’ Police General Torsak declared.

General Surachate stressed the importance of unity with the police force. He said he would cooperate with the enquiries of the anti-corruption commission

Police General Surachate similarly echoed his superior’s sentiments.

He emphasised the need to prioritise the public interest and cooperate fully with the NACC’s enquiries. He underlined the importance of maintaining unity within the police force. In addition, he expressed confidence in the NACC’s ability to conduct impartial inquiries into the allegations against him.

‘As the NACC is taking over the matter, any summons, if there are any, will be the responsibility of the NACC. Now, we must work only in the public’s best interests,’ Police General Surachate asserted. At length, he signalled his readiness to cooperate with the commission’s inquiries.

The latest twist in what has been an unfolding saga since September 2023, began on Sunday last.

This saw Bangkok police attach a notice to the gate of Police General Surachate’s residence in the Laksi district. They demanded his acknowledgement of a money laundering charge linked to the gambling website network BNK Master. 

This move came amidst mounting speculation regarding Police General Surachate’s involvement in illicit activities.

Press conference on Tuesday altered everything

However, the picture altered dramatically on Tuesday. 

Using slides and forensic accountancy, lawyers for Big Joke showed a diametrically opposed picture of what was going on. In particular, in sifting through evidence linked to the online gambling website BNK Master.

Not only did it show no overt link to General Surachate but it detailed massive police corruption. Why were only some officers targeted? This was a key question posed by Big Joke’s lawyers.

In the course of the airing of the information it was revealed that there were senior police officers involved, none of them General Surachate

Additionally, the case was linked by General Surachate’s lawyer to the police investigation of Kamnan Nok. 

This was a case in which General Surachate was abruptly taken off in September 2023. This happened just before a mysterious raid on General Surachates’s residence which scuppered his chances of becoming the next police chief.

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In response to the legal action taken against him, Police General Surachate questioned its legality. 

At length, he directly questioned the motives behind the accusations. He argued that it was a contrived attempt to link him selectively to the BNK Master online gambling website.

On Monday, General Surachate faced a career suspension from the force either for being charged or for failing to acknowledge Sunday’s police summons

However, the unfolding events continued to attract attention. 

Police General Torsak Sukvimol, on Monday, warned General Surachate about failure to comply with the police summons. The police chief said it could result in an arrest warrant or the suspension from duty of his deputy.

Moreover, Police General Torsak expressed his expectation that the cases involving General Surachate would be concluded before his retirement. He insisted on the urgency and significance of the ongoing investigations.

The situation escalated as lawyers representing Police General Surachate or Big Joke accused invisible parties of attempting to discredit him. They alleged ulterior motives behind the legal actions taken against him.

‘A warrant was only sought to arrest a certain suspect,’ stated lawyer Natthawit Netijarurote. He was referring to Police General Surachate, popularly known as ‘Big Joke.’ These revelations have highlighted an extremely complex situation. In short, something the general public finds difficult to follow or grasp.

Indeed, Big Joke’s lawyer would argue that this was intended to be the case.

Hence, their broad and detailed press conference on Tuesday. Undoubtedly, it was an event which will cause reverberations within the force for some time. 

No longer a doubt about the scale and extent of corruption within the force following Tuesday’s revelations of industrialised corruption payouts to police

It puts paid to any notion that corruption within the Royal Thai Police is not endemic.

The details aired on Tuesday revealed corruption on a massive or industrial scale. The allegations of misconduct and corruption put on display permeate the highest levels of law enforcement in Thailand.

Previously, the legal struggle took a significant turn in the Criminal Court. 

Recently, it approved arrest warrants for several people for money laundering in connection with the BNK Master gambling network. Significantly, it refused to issue one requested for General Surachate Hakparn.

Big Joke’s police career on the brink as police chief threatens to suspend the high profile top cop from job

Among those named were high-ranking police officers, including Police Colonel Kittichai Sangkhathaworn, Police Sergeant Natthawut Wadwaew, and Police Sergeant Natthanan Chuchak.

At length, this alone raised questions about the extent of corruption within the police. However, these claims about the involvement of police in online gambling were already public knowledge in early 2023.

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However, conflicting reports emerged regarding the involvement of Police General Surachate. This was prior to last Sunday’s attempted police summons.

Nevertheless, lawyers representing Police General Surachate refuted any suggestion of wrongdoing.

In brief, they claimed insufficient evidence or denied any basis to justify legal action against their client.

Big Joke’s lawyers say he had to be stopped from becoming police chief. In essence, this was the reason for the persistent attempts to have him prosecuted

‘There were attempts to discredit Police General Surachate because he was now the most senior candidate for the national police chief’s job,’ Mr Natthawit told reporters on Tuesday.

He was intent on exposing the potential motives behind the legal challenges faced by his client. He said the actions were directly caused by the intense competition and a power struggle within the Royal Thai Police Office.

Moreover, he warned it had significant implications for its leadership and integrity.

Previously, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) entered the fray. It announced its decision to consider the case of Police General Surachate in connection with the Minnie Network gambling website.

Similarly, Big Joke’s legal team refuted entirely the allegations levelled against him in this regard.

A senior police officer briefed reporters on Tuesday. The senior officer, out of uniform, identified himself to the media posse and provided background information. He admitted he was placing himself in legal jeopardy by doing so.

He attested to General Surachate’s innocence. The Police Major General also appeared to distance the deputy police chief from involvement in the Minnie Network gambling website.

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Further reading:

Big Joke’s police career on the brink as police chief threatens to suspend the high profile top cop from job

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