An armed forces fact-finding panel is looking into a soldier’s alleged involvement in the police extortion of millions of baht in exchange for the release of 11 Chinese suspects found hiding in a former consul-general’s house in Bangkok.
Lt Gen Teerapong Pattamasing Na Ayutthaya, director general of civil affairs and spokesman for the Royal Thai Armed Forces Command, said on Tuesday the accused soldier was attached to the Armed Forces Security Centre, the military police.
Gen Chalermpol Srisawat, chief of the defence forces, had been briefed and had ordered the soldier’s superiors to urgently set up a fact-finding committee into his activities and report back to him, Lt Gen Teerapong said.
The move came after arrest warrants were issued for police and officials from the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) who allegedly extracted a large bribe in exchange for the release of 11 Chinese nationals found during a search of the home of a former Republic of Nauru consul-general in Bangkok last month.
On Monday, Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn, deputy national police chief, said five DSI officials, nine policemen, including two officers from the Patrol and Special Operation Division, a soldier and a Chinese-born translator were involved in the alleged extortion and bribery.
The raid followed a post by former politician and massage parlour tycoon Chuvit Kamolvisit on his Facebook page on Sunday, alleging that the former consul-general’s house was sheltering illegal Chinese nationals and served as a place to forge passports and visas.
During the search, police arrested 11 Chinese nationals, one of them on Interpol’s Red Notice list, and found 8 million baht in cash. The Chinese had allegedly escaped a raid at the Jinling pub complex, which catered to Chinese tourists, on Charoen Rat Road in Bangkok on Oct 26.
All suspects found at the house were allegedly released in exchange for 5.5 million of the seized funds, according to news reports. Mr Chuvit also alleged that the officers had demanded an additional 4 million baht, to be picked up from a petrol station.
In his Facebook posting, Mr Chuvit targeted DSI and 191 Police. He said it was time for the DSI chief to clean house and not let certain officials cause damage to the agency. Pol Gen Surachate said the 14 officers denied the bribery and malfeasance charges, while the Chinese interpreter confessed to being involved in the alleged extortion of a 4-million baht bribe.
The soldier and the Chinese interpreter face charges of encouraging officials to take a bribe and committing misconduct to help offenders escape legal proceedings, according to the deputy national police chief.
DSI chief Traiyarit Temahiwong on Tuesday said the department had also set up a panel to look into the alleged serious disciplinary violations by its officials. No order had been issued for their dismissal from office, even though warrants had been issued for their arrest. The DSI was still considering whether to dismiss them or not because they would face both disciplinary and criminal punishment, Mr Traiyarit said.
The DSI had not ordered the accused officials to search the former consul-general’s premises that day. The agency had no authority to order the raid, that was the duty of the police, he said.
As he understood it, the Patrol and Special Operations Division, better known as 191 Police, had sought a search warrant for the house and the accused DSI officials had supported them in their task, the DSI chief said.
He said reports that his right-hand man at the DSI coordinated with 191 Police in organising the raid were incorrect. The staff member was not involved.