One of Thailand’s oldest associations endorses Big Joke after suspension amid police crisis. The Southern Thai Association backed General Surachate Hakparn, also known as ‘Big Joke,’ after he was fired on Thursday by acting National Police Chief General Kittirat Phanphet amid ongoing police corruption allegations.

One of Thailand’s oldest public associations on Friday issued a strong endorsement of General Surachate Hakparn. Big Joke was fired by acting National Police Chief General Kittirat Phanphet on Thursday after consulting with Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin at Government House. The temporary removal of General Surachate or Big Joke from government service could spell the end of his career. Thailand’s favourite police officer has now been arrested by order of a court, found guilty by a three-member panel set up by the Prime Minister and hastily removed. In short, it means the top cop is now precluded from becoming Thailand’s next National Police Commissioner. However, his demise can only spell bad news for the Royal Thai Police. It certainly comes amid a cloud of controversy and crisis that warrants urgent investigation by accountable public authorities outside the force.

Acting National Police Chief Police General Kittirat Phanphet removed Police General Surachate Hakparn from government service on Thursday. This followed a meeting with Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin at Government House. On Friday, the Southern Thai Association issued a strong letter of endorsement of the embattled former deputy police chief. It said he remained the President of the organisation and was innocent until proven guilty under Thai law.

On Friday afternoon, less than 24 hours after reports that Deputy National Police Chief General Surachate Hakparn had been suspended from government service, he was endorsed by one of the country’s oldest representative associations.

The Southern Thai Association under Royal Patronage emphasised that General Surachate would continue in his role as President of the organisation. At the same time, it highlighted that the top cop can appeal the decision by the acting national police chief.

Strongly worded statement in support of General Surachate released on Friday by the Southern Thai Association. The top cop is President of the organisation

A strongly worded statement from the association established in 1932, underlined that a court has not pronounced a verdict in the case against the policeman. General Surachate was arrested by order of the Criminal Court on April 2nd.

Previously, he had avoided police summonses from Tao Poon Police Station. However, investigating officers there doggedly pursued a case against him.

The statement was made by the secretariat of the association.

It acknowledged the charges against General Surachate or ‘Big Joke’ relating to money laundering in connection with the online gambling website BNK Master.

First details revealed this week of the exact nature of the criminal case against the now-former deputy police chief discharged from service on Thursday

Significantly, the case against General Surachate does not involve a clear financial money trail. He is allegedly being accused of receiving cash envelopes from two police sergeants in the Royal Thai Police Traffic Division.

Reports relating to the case against General Surachate have just emerged with news of his suspension from government service.

So far, they have never before been publicly revealed in such detail.

On Friday, however, the Southern Association under Royal patronage affirmed that General Surachate retained its support. He would continue to discharge and carry out his duties as its President.

Moreover, it noted that the top police officer could still clear his name.

In short, he was innocent as yet before the court and according to the law.

Additionally, it suggested that General Surachate could appeal the temporary suspension announced by the acting police chief to the Police Civil Service Commission Selection Committee (OCSC).

Association noted that there were many legal avenues still remaining open to Big Joke. His suspension from government service has still come as a shock

The supportive statement suggests that General Surachate is still pursuing many legal avenues to defend his position.

On Thursday, despite extensive speculation on the high-profile case, the news came as a shock.

Acting national police chief General Kittirat Phanphet suspended Deputy Police Chief Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn from government service.

The move effectively cuts the ground from under the top cop’s official status and indeed prospects.

Big Joke urged to resign by pundit Jatuporn Prompan after arrest warrant and guilty finding by PM’s panel

General Surachate known as ‘Big Joke,’ was removed along with four other police officers. At length, this is related to allegations of involvement in an online gambling network and money laundering. 

This relates to the BNK Master gambling website.

Firing of Big Joke occurs with the Royal Thai Police mired in a crisis. His removal and the context thereof are controversial given very disturbing claims

Certainly, there is some conflict in the emerging news. On March 19th, lawyers for General Surachate linked the same illegal site to over 30 Royal Thai Police senior officers. 

His case is controversial and is coming at a moment of crisis for the force. Indeed, that may not be a coincidence.

Indeed, lawyer-activist Sittra Biebangkerd, in recent weeks produced the paymaster for the illegal gambling website to police at Tao Poon Police Station. Ms Pimwalai presented herself as a cooperating witness. 

Similarly, large quantities of financial evidence were handed over to investigators at the station. This suggested the involvement of dozens of senior police officers including police chief General Torsak Sukwimol.

Sittra Biebangkerd held a press conference after meeting Bangkok police last Friday. He appeared confident in the case against suspended police chief General Torsak

However, just last week, sources at the station suggested that the evidence had to be reviewed at length. In short, they questioned its authenticity and chain of custody.

Investigators have questioned Mr Sittra’s evidence submitted to Tao Poon Police Station implicating the national police chief General Torsak and others

In addition, they asked how the evidence had been obtained suggesting it may have involved irregular procedures. Regarding Ms Pimwalai, it was further suggested that she may be charged with a criminal offence.

Of course, Ms Pimwalai acknowledged this herself when she presented her testimony to police on April 5th last.

Notably, a facet of the evidence coming from General Surachate and Mr Sittra is that it includes people near the illegal activity. Certainly, this is a double-edged sword. 

The decision announced by Police General Kittirat came after a disciplinary process within the force. However, the acting police chief announced a 14-man panel to review the process.

The suspension took immediate effect on Thursday. In brief, it followed the signing of the order by the acting national police chief.

Four other police officers were removed from government service along with General Surachate Hakparn. They are thought to be linked to the case

The other officers suspended along with Police General Surachate include Police Colonel Kittichai Sangkha Thaworn, deputy police commander of Songkhla province; Police Lieutenant Colonel Krit Pariyaket, deputy chief of the Phra Samut Chedi police station in Samut Prakan; and two traffic patrol policemen, Police Sergeant Natthawut Wadwaew and Police Sergeant Natthanan Chuchak.

All five officers are suspected of being involved in money laundering in relation to the BNK Master gambling network.

According to the source, the decision to suspend them was based on evidence from a disciplinary investigation. In addition, the panel relied on court-approved arrest warrants.

Sources suggest that the thinking is that a court would only approve such actions where there was a sufficient case to answer.

In an interview at the Police Hospital after meeting Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin at Government House, Police General Kittirat confirmed the suspensions. 

However, he stated that a new investigation committee had been established to look into the roles of the five suspects. 

A 14-member committee established to review the disciplinary process against the suspended policemen including Big Joke. However, this is a complex case

The committee consists of 14 police officers ranging from lieutenant colonel to general, headed by Deputy Chief Police General Sarawut Karnpanich. This panel includes Police Major General Montree Theskhan, the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) boss. In addition, it includes Police Lieutenant General Nopawat Arayangkun, deputy police inspector general. 

The investigation into Police General Surachate and related officers is part of a larger probe into a complex web. In addition to alleged criminal activity, there is a wider countercase.

Presented by lawyers for General Surachate on March 19th and later highlighted by lawyer Sittra Biebangkerd, it alleges massive corruption linked to hundreds of police officers within the force.

Significantly, while the BNK Master illegal gambling website is linked to both factions within the police force, the allegations made by Mr Sittra involve unprecedented levels of corruption.

Disturbing evidence of widespread corruption and mafia-style operations within the police force handed over in March by ‘Lawyer Tum’ or Sittra Biebangkerd

In short, they link the police with a widespread network of illegality orchestrated on a national basis.

Evidence of this was presented by Mr Sittra to Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) deputy chief Police Major General Charoonkiat Pankaew. That was on Thursday, March 28th.

Unprecedented crisis for the Royal Thai Police as Srettha baulks despite lawyer’s damning claims of corruption
Big Joke released on bail and emerged to speak briefly to reporters at 8 pm. Top cop appeared at ease, relaxed

In contrast, General Surachate has for over a decade been hailed as an anti-corruption campaigner. Within the Royal Thai Police, he is undoubtedly a public favourite.

Certainly, there appears to be evidence against Big Joke

However, on April 2nd, a Criminal Court hearing found sufficient evidence to issue an arrest warrant for him.

Afterwards, a panel set up by the Prime Minister including retired deputy police chief General Winai Thongsong bluntly found him to be implicated in money laundering.

The investigation into Big Joke reportedly found evidence of financial transactions linking him to previously suspended officers. In brief, these officers were additionally implicated in the BNK Master gambling network. 

The evidence suggests that money was paid to an account controlled by Police Lieutenant Colonel Krit Pariyaket. Police Lieutenant Colonel Krit was previously deputy superintendent of Samrong Nuea Police Station.

In turn, money was allegedly transferred to the accounts of two police sergeants. 

These were Police SergeantNatthawut Wadwaew, a Squad Commander with Patrol Division 1. The other non-commissioned officer was Police Sergeant Natthanan Chuchak. Police Sergeant Natthanan was a Squad Commander, Patrol Division 3, Traffic Division.

Allegations suggest that between February and November 2022, the top cop received envelopes with cash from two police sergeants with the Traffic Patrol

In turn, these two sergeants allegedly withdrew cash and passed the money onto General Surachate.

The allegations against Police General Surachate or ‘Big Joke’ is that he was in receipt of cash envelopes on specific occasions between February 2022 and November 2022.

At the same time, the evidence presented by Lawyer Tum or Mr Sittra Biebangkerd together with financial evidence illustrates massive police corruption. 

In short, it shows regular monthly payments and income transfers of up to ฿100 million per month.

Of course, that relates to wider national corruption but significantly, includes the BNK Master illegal gambling website.

Police General Surachate had previously reported to police on April 2 to answer charges of money laundering. Within hours, he was released on bail. 

Big Joke released on bail and emerged to speak briefly to reporters at 8 pm. Top cop appeared at ease, relaxed

His legal team has since claimed his innocence, as does the Southern People’s Association under the Royal Patronage who on Friday expressed support for him.

Case must be looked at in a wider context. That includes claims by General Surachate’s lawyers that there is a campaign against the maverick officer

The suspension and ongoing investigation must be looked at on a wider basis.

In short, the disturbing allegations of corruption and illegal activities within the police force as revealed by Mr Sittra Biebangkerd.

In addition, the claims by Police General Surachate’s lawyers on March 19th of a campaign to thwart him from within the force.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, on March 20th, transferred both Police General Surachate and former National Police Chief Police General Torsak Sukvimol to inactive posts within the PM’s Office.

This was pending the outcome of what was supposed to be a 60-day investigation. 

Big Joke survives an alleged effort to discredit him. PM appoints temporary police chief and enquiry panel

However, that response increasingly looks ill-judged given the seriously disturbing allegations and a lack of transparency. The public needs to see the evidence and it needs to be aired. The scope of the enquiry ordered is too narrow and limited.

In short, the scale of this story goes well beyond a dispute between two senior officers. 

At the same time, the Prime Minister and officials must have due regard for the legal process. They are constitutionally appointed officials and thereby constrained.

Acting police chief defended his move on Thursday. He said the removals were within the scope of the law and the suspended police officers could appeal

Nevertheless, the situation raises deep concerns about the integrity of law enforcement in Thailand. Undoubtedly, there is a need for a wider investigation into this affair quite apart from the rivalry between senior officers.

On Thursday, Police General Kittirat emphasised the need to allow the investigative committee time to work and reach a conclusion. He has also stressed that the suspensions are in line with legal procedures. At the same time, officers have the right to appeal the order.

Nevertheless, public confidence in the Royal Thai Police has been severely damaged.

The potential fall of the top police officer is simply devastating. 

Certainly, many people saw General Surachate Hakparn as the hope for the force. His removal, even on a temporary basis, now precludes him from being shortlisted as the next National Police Chief.

Controversial case against General Surachate and widespread allegations of rampant police corruption should be aired in parliament or in a public forum

On March 19th, his lawyers told a press conference that this was the goal of the forces arrayed against him.

In truth, it is also fair to say that the circumstances surrounding the case against him are controversial. At the very least. 

Unquestionably, the affair undermines confidence in a force of 200,000 members, the majority of whom are well-intentioned public servants. Many foreign cynics think otherwise, of course. 

Meanwhile, the Royal Thai Police continues to preserve Thailand as a relatively safe place to live. Certainly compared to some Western countries and capitals, Bangkok is unquestionably safer. This is achieved by rank-and-file officers who are underpaid and overworked. 

Unquestionably, there is a police corruption crisis

At the same time, to suggest that the force is not riven by corruption would be wrong. News story after news story suggests otherwise. And that is what this story is ultimately all about.

It’s a hard station for Thai police and foreigners should understand better the job they do to keep order

Certainly, if what Mr Sittra Biebangkerd says is true, there is an extensive mafia operating within the force. In effect, a shadow which has long marred its reputation. The situation cries out for an investigation by a parliamentary panel. 

Therefore, some other public authority should be called upon to look into the affair with full transparency and public accountability.

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Further reading:

Surachate requests time as Bangkok police station weighs cases against him and the also suspended police chief

Big Joke urged to resign by pundit Jatuporn Prompan after arrest warrant and guilty finding by PM’s panel

Surachate released on bail. Emerged to speak briefly to reporters at 8 pm. Top cop appeared at ease, relaxed

Big shock: Arrest warrant issued by court in Bangkok against Big Joke or General Surachate Hakparn

Unprecedented crisis for the Royal Thai Police as Srettha baulks despite lawyer’s damning claims of corruption

Bangkok police still targeting Big Joke over BNK Master website case. Arrest warrant considered

Big Joke survives an alleged effort to discredit him. PM appoints temporary police chief and enquiry panel

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