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Thailand’s top cop embroiled in the Surachat car-shooting case – Audio clip released

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MONTAGE: Second-in-command Wirachai Songmetta and Surachat Hakparn

“Stay away from Big Joke shooting.”

A leaked phone conversation reveals Thailand’s senior police chief instructing a deputy to distance himself from the Surachat drive-by shooting case. Former Immigration Chief Pol Lt Gen Surachat Hakparn’s white Lexus SUV was shot at eight times in a Patpong soi in Bangkok on Monday night. There was no one n the car at the time.

In the audio clip (below), which has now been confirmed as authentic, the Thai police commissioner Chakthip Chaijinda can be heard telling his 2IC Wirachai Songmetta “not to draw public attention to the shooting”.

Publicly. police officials have been telling the public they had no intention to shut down the investigation and promised full transparency.

According to police spokesperson Krissana Pattanacharoen…. “I confirm that it’s a conversation between the national police chief and his deputy Wirachai Songmetta. It’s just a regular reiteration of duties. The case is being taken care of by the (Bangkok) metropolitan police.”

“I don’t know who did this. But as a matter of courtesy, one should not record a phone call except, someone who has ill intention towards the other party.”

The clip was first played yesterday morning on MCOT’s “Inside Thailand” program. The host described the audio clip as “a conversation between a senior officer calling from abroad and a senior officer in Thailand.”

Media have reported that Thailand’s police chief Gen. Chakthip Chaijinda has been on leave since January 6.

The clip continues…. “Just do anything to gain trust from your commanders, don’t make them feel suspicious.Do you understand? Do whatever you want…. I want to warn you because many deputies are concerned.”

Chakthip appeared to be chiding Wirachai, who has been speaking to reporters about Monday night’s shooting that targeted the car of former immigration chief Surachat “Big Joke” Hakparn.

“Just tell me what you want me to do, sir,” replies deputy Wirachai.

“I have to be there because if I don’t do anything the public will think that we’re not doing anything.”

Chakthip then ordered his deputy to “steer clear of the case”, which is being handled by Bangkok’s Metropolitan Police.

It now appears that the Immigration Bureau’s controversial contract to purchase a biometric identification system was at the centre of conflicts between the former immigration police chief, Pol Lt Gen Surachat Hakparn and national police chief, Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday, the former head of Immigration, aka.”Big Joke”, speculated that the shooting was clearly linked to the purchase of the biometric identification system by the bureau.

At the time of the contract negotiations Surachat expressed his concerns over the procurement of the system in a letter to Thailand’s police chief Gen. Chakthip Chaijinda. He listed a number of issues with the proposed system and shared the opinion that it was not fit for purpose and “wasn’t worth the 2.1 billion baht price tag”.

In the aftermath, Surachat was side-lined from his duties leading the country’s Immigration Bureau into a civilian job as advisor in the prime minister’s office. He has worked there ever since and said nothing of the reasons behind his downgrading and removal from the police establishment.

The two billion baht biometrics system was later procured, installed and been used ever since. The national police chief has called several media conferences showcasing the system and proudly announcing the numbers of passengers they had intercepted, arrested and deported using the technology.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission says they’ve been investigating the procurement process for the biometrics system. Surachat told the media on Wednesday he would be soon be called in to give evidence about it.

Back to the audio tape and Wirachai asks his boss….“So it means I don’t have to get involved in this, sir?”

Chakthip prelims… “The metro police are taking care of the case. Don’t be drawn by their plot. It’s noticeable, do you understand? You don’t have to hold news conferences here and there. There’s nothing about this case. I thought you’re discerning enough not to let them push their personal agenda into this. We all know what P’Toy and Joke are thinking,”

(‘Joke’ refers to Surachat. P’Toy is not identified)

The audio clip has caught the national police off-guard. Media conferences, to be held by Wirachai yesterday, were shuffled around and retimed several times. When a news conference was eventually scheduled Wirachai said…

“I don’t know about the clip. I need to look into the details first. It’s possible that the phone call might have been tapped.”

Yesterday Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwon acknowledged the conflicts between former Pol Lt Gen Surachat and Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda, admitting that he had told them both to clear the air before the conflict gets out of hand.

Yesterday forensic examiners announced they had found all eight bullets embedded in Surachat’s SUV. Investigators are trying to determine the type of gun used in the shooting.

SOURCES: khaosodenglish.co.th | Bangkok Post | ThaiRath

 

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