‘BIG JOKE’ SAGA CONTINUES TO UNFOLD: Arrest warrant request to the courts considered by Bangkok-based police as they continue to target him over the BNK Master case. The PM’s intervention has not extracted him from legal peril. Top cop reportedly planning a short UK vacation amidst the legal turmoil that continues to surround him.

The dramatic intervention by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Wednesday has still left Police Deputy Chief General Surachate Hakparn exposed. An additional attempt to serve a summons on him related to the controversial BNK Master investigation was made on Friday. At the same time, Metropolitan Police Bureau sources in Bangkok, on Saturday, were reportedly considering another application to have an arrest warrant issued. This comes with reports the top policeman known also as ‘Big Joke’ is planning on a short holiday to the United Kingdom.

The developments come amid concerns about the remit of the three-member panel of enquiry appointed by the Prime Minister on Wednesday. It came following shocking revelations of industrial-level corruption within the Royal Thai Police revealed by General Surachate’s lawyers on Tuesday.

Big Joke or General Surachate Hakparn, Deputy National Police Chief speaking with reporters with whom he has a good rapport. This week, he was at the centre of a controversy which threatened to rock the Royal Thai Police to its foundations. It followed shocking revelations by his lawyers on Tuesday. They told the media that efforts are being made by unseen forces to remove him. At the same time, they made disturbing claims relating to systemic corruption linked to illegal online gambling site BNK Master. (Inset) General Surachate attended a party for underprivileged children in Bangkok on Saturday. It came as Bangkok police sought to serve a criminal summons on him.

The dramatic saga surrounding Deputy Chief General Surachate Hakparn, colloquially known as ‘Big Joke,’ continues to unfold.

The deputy police commander’s recent activities included attending a charitable event for underprivileged children in Bangkok. This took place on Saturday by prior appointment.

Big Joke’s predicament is still quite uneasy and dangerous. PM Srettha, on Thursday, suggested the possibility that both senior officers may not return

The top cop was fulfilling his duties as president of the Southern People’s Association. A smiling General Surachate was pictured among the children being served chicken rice.

However, there are some reports which may cause unease for the top police commander.

For instance, comments on Thursday, by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin while chairing a Police Commission meeting in Bangkok. Mr Srettha appeared to have a different emphasis from his remarks the day before. 

The PM suggested that neither General Surachate nor the sidelined police chief General Torsak Sukwimol may return to the force. 

It would depend, he cautioned, on the outcome when the current panel of enquiry finishes its review in two months.

Mr Srettha also appeared to urge the police to refocus their efforts on urgent crime priorities. By implication, rather than concentrating on the vast corruption scandal which has emerged. He urged the force to address criminal matters such as loan sharks, influential people, smuggled goods and firearms.

‘If we were busy with this issue, people would be in trouble, and everyone would not focus on their work,’ Mr Srettha commented.

Not clear what the remit of the enquiry set up this week is. It has been suggested that it will explore the charges being made against General Surachate

On Wednesday, however, the prime minister undertook to smash online gambling rackets. In addition, he promised to root out all corruption within the police force.

Meanwhile, one of the key three-panel members appointed by the Prime Minister is Police General Winai Thongsong.  He is a former deputy police chief.

He has vowed that the panel’s investigation and report will be no whitewash.

It comes with reports of massive police corruption linked to the online gambling website BNK Master.

At the same time, it is understood the panel will examine what General Surachate Hakparn’s lawyers have alleged is an attempt to discredit him. 

A press conference was told that a plot was in play to stop him from leading the police force. The top job will be again up for grabs in September 2024.

Indeed, there is already a pattern of attempts to remove General Surachate from both positions within the Royal Thai Police and sensitive cases linked to police and government corruption.

Pattern of previous efforts to remove General Surachate

Firstly, he was dramatically removed in mysterious circumstances in 2019. At the time, he was a trail-blazing Immigration Bureau chief.

No explanation for that has ever been forthcoming.

He was similarly removed from the Kamnan Nok provincial corruption investigation in September 2023.

Indeed, that month saw a mysterious raid on his Bangkok home in Rangsit which scuppered his chances of becoming police chief.

Before the raid, he was considered a shoo-in for the role.

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On Tuesday, Big Joke’s legal team suggested this was because he posed a threat to ongoing corruption by large numbers of police officers on a systematic scale. 

In the meantime, the public is deeply concerned about the industrialised corruption revealed by General Surachate’s lawyers last Tuesday.

In turn, a panel appointed by the Prime Minister vowed that its investigation would be thorough and impartial. However, it is not clear exactly what the full remit of this enquiry is.

Reports that the panel will examine the basis for charges against General Surachate and wider corruption claims relating to the BNK Master gambling site

Some reports suggest it will probe General Surachate’s alleged involvement with the online gambling website BNK Master. 

The panel’s chair, Police General Winai, on Friday, emphasised the importance of uncovering the truth within a 60-day timeframe. At length, he promised concrete action rather than token gestures.

‘I insist the probe will not end up as a mere token gesture without any concrete action taken,’ the former police chief declared.

The appointment of the investigative panel and the temporary removal of the country’s top policemen came after the earth-shattering claims by General Surachate’s lawyers on Tuesday. This was at a press conference held in Bangkok.

They revealed that over 30 senior police officers were feeding off the cash flow of the illegal gambling site BNK Master.

At the same time, they denied any involvement by the well-known deputy chief.

At length, these statements were based on what they heralded as an expert forensic examination of the evidence.

National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) previously took up another case brought against General Surachate given his seniority and plans to discredit him
Big Joke’s police career on the brink as police chief threatens to suspend the high profile top cop from job

Both Big Joke and his lawyers, as in the claims against him relating to Minine’s gambling network, say the charges lack foundation.

In short, they claim that once-off payments linked to him are innocent. These were taken out of context. 

Big Joke’s lawyers claim isolated and spurious payments linked with the senior officer have been taken out of context to push money laundering charges 

These payments are often linked to other senior police officers. These isolated payments were linked to his role as a senior leader within the police.

At the same time, Police General Winai, on Friday, was primarily concerned about the reputation of the Royal Thai Police. He said the tussle between the two policemen at the top was a danger in that it could tarnish it.

At the same time, Police General Winai said the independent fact-finding panel would look at all allegations.

Certainly, including fears that false claims against General Surachate were being made. He also said his panel would, in addition, look at reports of police officers accepting bribes.

The former police boss will also be joined by a former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior. 

On Friday, he suggested that an extension of the 60-day timeline for the enquiry may be had. This would occur if the investigation was not yet complete.

Afterwards, a report will be forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Big Joke is sidelined and still in legal limbo

Despite the dramatic intervention by the Prime Minister, on Wednesday, the uncertainty over the prospects of the top cop persists. Deputy Chief General Surachate Hakparn appears to be still in legal limbo.

Over the weekend, he was tracked by the Metropolitan Police Bureau Division Two in Bangkok. In short, this was in relation to a second attempt to serve a summons on him.

Officers arrived at his Rangsit home on Friday morning. These were police from Thung Song Hong and Tao Poon stations.

They arrived at Police General Surachate’s Vibhavadi Rangsit 60 residence. They were held up by local security but eventually granted entrance. Afterwards, they placed a notice at the home.

However, they failed to legally serve the summons as required by law.

Case against General Surachate not sent to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) as the oversight agency must first of all request to take it up

This comes despite an assurance by temporarily suspended National Police Commissioner General Torsak Sukwimol on Wednesday.

Previously he said that all cases relating to the high-flying police officer were being sent to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). In truth, this has not happened.

On Friday, an unnamed source at Royal Thai Police headquarters suggested that this was not possible.

Cases have to be requested by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

Indeed, any attempt to transfer a case to the corruption agency may be interpreted as malfeasance under the Criminal Code or failure to carry out an official duty.

‘Without a formal request from the NACC, the police officers involved could be charged with malfeasance by forwarding the case to the NACC prematurely,’ the source explained.

Surachate’s lawyers vehemently deny any wrongdoing on his part. 

However, they claimed that clear evidence shows over 30 senior police officers benefited from the BNK Master gambling site.

On Tuesday, Big Joke’s main lawyer Mr Natthawit Netijarurote questioned this. In brief, he asked why arrest warrants and legal proceedings were not activated immediately against all those officers.

‘A warrant was only sought to arrest a certain suspect,’ stated Mr Natthawit.

Top cop received no funds from BNK Master site

At the same time, last Tuesday, the lawyers for Big Joke or General Surachate Hakparn were adamant. The top cop had received no money from the BNK Master gambling operation. 

Furthermore, on Friday, there are reports of behind-the-scenes meetings with political figures about the affair with a former police chief. These claims were made by anti-corruption campaigner Atchariya Ruangrattanapong. Mr Atchariya is the President of the Crime Victims Assistance Club. 

Certainly, this came before Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin made his intervention on Wednesday.

Nevertheless, since Friday, the top policeman, now seconded to the government and working at Government House, General Surachate has been reported to have been at various locations. This includes Nong Khai province in northern Thailand and on Saturday, back again in Bangkok.

At the same time, he is reported to be planning a short holiday to the United Kingdom next week returning to Thailand on April 1st.

Amidst the attempt to serve proceedings on him, Surachate’s whereabouts have been the subject of speculation. Despite being summoned to acknowledge charges, he was reportedly on vacation or at various locations, complicating police attempts to locate him.

Police in Bangkok plan to serve the criminal summons over the BNK Master site at his new office in the Thai-Khu-Fah Building on Government House grounds 

His decision to travel to the United Kingdom has raised eyebrows, especially considering the pending legal summons. Police in Bangkok are furthermore prepared to serve the summons on him at his new office. This is located within the Thai-Khu-Fah Building on Government House grounds in the capital.

Significantly, it is reported that the new office for General Torsak Sukwimol is not within that same building.

It is located at another government premises. Reports suggested that the office suite required new wallpaper, lighting and new air conditioning. Evidently, it has not been in use for some time.

The new summons for General Surachate is returnable on March 26th. In turn, this is a date which reports indicate could see the deputy chief on holiday in the United Kingdom. 

This led to further speculation from police sources in Bangkok on Saturday. It suggested a renewed attempt to apply for an arrest warrant in respect of General Surachate may be made.

Indeed, it appears that Wednesday’s intervention by the prime minister has failed to extricate General Surachate or Big Joke from legal peril. What looked like a career-saving exercise for him just days ago has still left him exposed.

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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

Top cop Big Joke fights for his name as summons rumours swirl around him over 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