This week’s Joke

13 03 2021

It was only a couple of days ago when Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha declared that “Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn, who was removed as Immigration Bureau commissioner in 2019, is being reinstated to an active post at the Royal Thai Police…”. But, he’s back.

The reason for Big Joke – his nickname – suddenly going from hero to villain “was never explained and remains a mystery.” Some time ago, The Nation had a summary of some of the events.

In 2020 Surachate “filed a lawsuit against Gen Prayut last year claiming he had been transferred illegally.” He was said to be “under investigation.” On Tuesday, Gen Prayuth said “the investigation … remained inconclusive,” but was continuing.

Within a few days, the Bangkok Post reported that the “Police Commission on Friday approved a new position at headquarters, amid speculation that it will be filled by Surachate Hakparn, who is poised to return after two years of mysterious exile from law enforcement.” The Post has some reminders of the murkiness:

Equally murky were the circumstances surrounding an incident in which shots were fired at the high-profile lawman’s Lexus SUV in January last year. He claimed the attack was related to the Immigration Bureau’s controversial procurement of an expensive biometric ID system, a decision he had opposed.

Another casualty of that incident was deputy national police chief Wirachai Songmetta. He was sacked after the release of an audio recording in which a senior officer, later identified as then-national chief Chakthip Chaijinda, was heard warning him to stay out of the Big Joke case.

Gen Prayut signed a transfer order on March 5 for the return of Pol Lt Gen Surachate to the police agency but the process has not been completed.

Now Big Joke “has been officially reappointed to the Royal Thai Police…”, with the transfer signed by Prayuth and he “is now regarded as being back in the police force, although his precise post has not been been decided.” It is stated that “… Surachate was entitled to retain his present rank and be reinstated to the last position he held before the transfer…. He is also qualified for promotion to assistant national police chief.”

We have to say that such secrecy and backroom wheeling and dealing usually reeks of palace. The return to position as “unblemished” reminded us of another event.


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