BANGKOK (AP) — Police in Thailand on Monday raided the Bangkok residence of one of the country’s four deputy national police chiefs, an action the target complained was intended to discredit him due to “politics inside the Royal Thai Police.”
Police Gen. Surachate Hakparn is a contender to become the next chief of Thailand’s national police. The position is expected to be filled soon. The Royal Thai Police force has a tradition of fierce internal politicking, as well as a longstanding reputation for corruption at all levels.
Trairong Phiwpan, a commander in the force’s Office of Legal Affairs and Litigation, said the search at the house where Surachate is living was part of an investigation following a bust of a major network of illegal online gambling operations.
Four people were arrested in June and July in connection with the case. Arrest warrants were issued for another 23 people, Trairong said. They include eight police officers who were arrested Monday and who Surachate acknowledged are his subordinates. Surachate himself was not named in a warrant and not taken into custody..
Trairong said some of the arrested officers allegedly were involved in “administering and managing” the 12 websites involved in the alleged gambling network. A total of 17 people were arrested during simultaneous raids Monday at 30 locations across the country, he said.
Surachate told reporters after the raids that he was innocent of any wrongdoing. He declared his faith in the members of his team but also said he would not help any who are proven to have been involved in illegal activity.
Asked if the search of his home might be related to the imminent appointment of a new national police chief, Surachate replied, “I’ll let you reporters think for yourselves” about the timing of the raid. He also said he believed the warrant served at his home was obtained deceitfully.
“Maybe I’ve worked on a lot of cases and that might have affected many people. Today I had to brace for an impact like this,” Surachate said.
After the raid, a video emerged online showing Surachate and his subordinates partying with a woman who was arrested in July as a prime suspect in the illegal gambling network. Surachate said the event was a party he organized for his team. He insisted he did not know the woman and said he couldn’t possibly know all the people his subordinates might have brought to the party.
Legal Affairs officer Trairong said the search warrants for the home where Surachate lives and several nearby that he owns were obtained properly based on the forensic evidence and the money trail from the investigation.
“The search was conducted mainly to arrest the suspects in the warrants, and the search at the houses there led to an arrest of one suspect. It is proof that the investigation team has been working based on facts and evidence,” he said.
Known by his nickname “Big Joke” and for making frequent media appearances, Surachate was a rising star in the Police Immigration Bureau after his appointment there in 2018. He was removed from his post and disappeared temporarily from public view in 2019.
He returned to the national police agency in 2021 after Prayuth Chan-ocha, who as an army commander came to power after staging a 2014 coup, appointed him as an advisor to the police chief. Surachate resumed climbing the ranks to become a deputy police commissioner and led several high-profile cases.
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