Thailand’s national park chief released on bail for 400,000 baht

Photo via MGR Online

Thailand‘s National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) released the Chief of National Parks Rutchada Suriyakul Na Ayutya on bail for 400,000 baht this morning after detaining him on corruption charges yesterday.

After interrogating Rutchada and collecting collateral of 400,000 baht, NACC officials agreed to release Rutchada, citing that he is not considered a flight risk due to having a stable and high-ranking government position as Director of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

Police allegedly caught Rutchada red-handed accepting a bribe at his office in Bangkok’s Chatuchak district yesterday. Police seized 5 million baht in cash from the office.

An investigation into Rutchada’s alleged corruption began after the former superintendent of Kaeng Krachan National Park, Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn, accused Rutchada of abusing his authority and transferring civil servants to work in undesirable locations unless they paid a bribe between 500,000 to 1 million baht.

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Rutchada is also accused of collecting tea money from the directors of various conservation areas, calculating the fee based on their allocated budgets. Rutchada allegedly took hefty cuts from budgets allocated to operating costs as well as budgets allocated to forest fire protection units.

Ironically, accuser Chaiwat is currently working as Director of Conservation Area 9 in northeast Thailand despite being accused of murdering Karen activist “Billy” in an ongoing trial, for which he and three more national park officials were indicted over again earlier this year. Chaiwat denies the accusations.

Yesterday, the President of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights Association (TLHR), Natthasiri Bergman, accused the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Jatuporn Burusphat, of violating the law and neglecting his duty by allowing Chaiwat to work as a civil servant despite the seriousness of the allegations filed against him.

Meanwhile, Jatuporn has ordered a committee to investigate Chief Rutchada’s alleged crimes within seven days. If Rutchada is found guilty, he will be dismissed from government service, according to Jatuporn.

As for the 5 million baht seized from Rutchada’s office, police said Rutchada must prove the origins of the money. If he can’t come up with a good reason for having 5 million baht in cash then he will be fired, said Jatuporn.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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