Police today allegedly caught a government official red-handed accepting a bribe when they swooped to arrest the man at his Bangkok office. Officers raiding the premises also confiscated 5 million baht from the official’s office, reported Bangkok Post.
Counter Corruption Division (CCD) commander Pol Maj Gen Jaroonkiat Pankaew, and his team, arrested Rutchada Suriyakul Na Ayutya, the head of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, at his office in Bangkok’s Chatuchak district on charges of soliciting bribes and malfeasance in office.
Pol Maj Gen Jaroonkiat allegedly caught Rutchada in the act of receiving a gift at a meeting with senior officials as he and police officers stormed the meeting room at about 9.30am. Heads and senior officials of agencies under the department were arriving with gift baskets at the time.
Rutchada allegedly told his subordinates not to give him any presents. He only wanted best wishes for the festive season.
Arresting officers searched Rutchada’s office and found 5 million baht in cash during the search and impounded it as evidence.
Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn, former head of Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi, filed a complaint with the CCD police against Rutchada, accusing him of abusing his authority. Rutchada allegedly transferred officials to faraway provinces if they refused to pay him 500,000 baht.
Chaiwat also accused the department chief of demanding money from heads of agencies under the department. Chaiwat alleged that Rutchada would collect 18.5% of the budgets allocated to national parks and wildlife sanctuaries and 30% of the budgets received by forest fire prevention units.
Police began an investigation after receiving the complaint and later decided to press charges against the department chief.
Rutchada has not yet provided a statement denying the accusation or pleading his innocence before the publication of the story.
Ironically, the accuser, Chaiwat, is currently facing charges over the disappearance and alleged homicide of a Karen rights activist. He denies the accusation.