Abhisit still keen to reshuffle police

13 08 2009

About a week ago, PPT blogged that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban had backed off meddling in the police reshuffle and promotions, especially as there are claims over the legality of political meddling.

Abhisit, perhaps prompted by the continuing push from PAD leader Sonthi Limthongkul, has continued the search for loyalty (see here). He has pushed Police General Patcharawat Wongsuwan out of his role again, following that general’s early return from leave, while again making Police General Wichien Potposri acting police chief.

Patcharawat has, according to The Nation (13 August 2009: “Pol Gen Vichien back in the driver’s seat”) been sent to the south, “in charge of overseeing security in the restive South and ensuring safety an upcoming Asean meeting.”

Wichien, sounding like a judge in a lese majeste trial, “vowed to ensure justice in the annual police reshuffle during [yet another] Police Commission meeting.” Whether the more “yellow” Democrat Party leaders and PAD can get their way remains to be seen, but there seems a determination to intervene against “Thaksin supporters” in the police senior levels and to restructure the police in ways that sidelines “the enemy.”

Meanwhile, Abhisit actually had the audacity to deny “allegations of interfering in the annual police reshuffle, saying he had never tampered with individual appointments and only wanted make sure there were no legal violations.”

Against that, the Bangkok Post (13 August 2009: “Big revision tipped for police list”) seems less sure, predicting “Big changes are expected when the Police Commission meets today to vet a proposed reshuffle list involving officers from the level of deputy superintendent on down…”. Apparently having Patcharawat out of the way assists in making the changes.

Confirming the continuing pressure from PAD, Abhsiit claimed: “I’m not involved in the police reshuffle. What I’m doing is ensuring that the Sondhi case investigation can go ahead…”. Winning control of the police remains important for Abhisit and PAD.

Abhisit and Suthep back off on police reshuffle

9 08 2009

The Bangkok Post (7 August 2009: “Police Commission stands by list endorsed by Patcharawat”) reports that the “Police Commission has resolved to leave the reshuffle list of 152 high-ranking police officers unchanged…”. Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban had called a meeting of the commission on Friday to reconsider it but backed off as the Election Commission began to look at “whether Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva interfered in the police investigation of the attempted murder of People’s Alliance for Democracy leader Sondhi Limthongkul…”.

Democrat meddling emphasizes political loyalty

6 08 2009

The police chief saga continues. The Bangkok Post (6 August 2009: “Police reshuffle can still be changed”) has a report regarding the police reshuffle list already completed by police chief Patcharawat Wongsuwon.

Council of State Secretary-General Porntip Jala is reported as saying that the list can still be changed “as it has not yet received royal approval.”

The Police Commission is due for an apparently special meeting on Friday to discuss the list while the police chief is absent. That would seem exceptionally convenient. Even better for the government, the “Council of State chief said [acting chief] Pol Gen Wichien [Potposri] had the authority to arrange another police reshuffle in the absence of the commander.”

Patcharawat is said to have warned against politicians changing the reshuffle list, and rumours are flying that a Democrat has been involved. Meanwhile, “some retired senior police leaders called for a legal amendment to prevent politicians from intervening in personnel management at the Royal Thai Police Office.”

Meanwhile, according to the Bangkok Post (6 August 2009: “Priewphan to seek court justice over acting police chief’s job”) the man passed over for acting police chief, Deputy national police chief Priewphan Damapong (see our earlier post here) has vowed to “seek justice in the courts.”

Priewphan said “that he believed he was not entrusted with the responsibility because he is a relative of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.” He added that “he has already served as acting national police chief 22 times.”

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva “responded to Pol Gen Priewphan’s claims a few hours later. He insisted the appointment of Pol Gen Wichien was appropriate and legal. He had taken into consideration seniority and suitability to do the job in the current situation, the prime minister said. The appointment of Pol Gen Wichien was in line with Article 72 of the Police Act.”

Then there is a neat tidbit: “Responding to the suggestion that Pol Gen Wichien might not be suitable for the post since the Royal Aide-de-Camp Department and Police Office attached to the Royal Household Bureau had earlier each issued an order prohibiting him from entering the palace, Mr Abhisit said he had checked and found that the orders had been revoked.” If any reader knows what this is about, PPT would be pleased to hear more.

Keeping the meddling to ensure loyalty to the government going, the Bangkok Post (6 August 2009: “Prawit fears meddling in lists”) has another, potentially more important story, if the reporting is accurate.

Apparently Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon (the on-leave police chief’s brother) skipped a cabinet meeting yesterday. At the same time, an army source has said that Prawit has urged “armed forces leaders to finalise their annual reshuffle lists by the middle of this month to prevent political interference…”.

Prawit is reportedly “concerned about the political situation and … is also worried about political pressure to have him removed.”

The Sondhi Limthongkul assassination case is considered to be putting Prawit under pressure and it is reported that “PAD leader Mr Sondhi and the ruling Democrat Party are looking for candidates to fill the defence minister’s post…”. It is said that “Potential candidates include former coup leaders who toppled Thaksin … such as Gen Saprang Kalayanamitr, Gen Boonsrang Niampradit and Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin.”

The source is also reported to have said that the “army officers involved in the crackdown on the Songkran riots are also poised to be promoted. They include Maj Gen Paiboon Khumchaya, commander of the 1st Division of the King’s Guard, who is expected to be made deputy commander of the 1st Army, and Maj Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, commander of the 9th Infantry Regiment, who will be made another deputy commander of the 1st Army. Maj Gen Kampanat Ruddit, commander of the Phetchaburi-based 15th Military Circle, will be made commander of the 1st Division of the King’s Guard.”

Wasn’t it Thaksin who was accused of meddling in the transfers and promotions, putting the military leadership off-side? The Democrat Party seems intent on rewarding loyalty and establishing its control over the forces of repression in Thailand.

Controlling the police

6 08 2009

As PPT readers know, there has been considerable political wheeling and dealing concerning Police chief Patcharawat Wongsuwan. Now Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has appointed a stand-in while Patcharawat is on leave. Well, maybe he’s on leave. He showed up for work even after a caretaker police chief had been appointed.

The Nation (5 August 2009: “PM names caretaker police chief”) reported that Police General Wichien Potposri has been appointed. The Nation reports that Wichien is seen as “relatively impartial in handling politically related events so there is a chance that he could be made national police chief once Patcharawat retires.”

The Bangkok Post (4 August 2009: “PM appoints acting police chief”) reported Abhisit as saying that he had appointed Wichien “based on his seniority and appreciable work record.”

A couple of points to make here. First, as Bangkok Pundit notes, Wichien was previously head of the Office of the Royal Court Security Police. Second, under the military-backed government of privy councilor-cum-prime minister Surayud Chulanond, Wichien was responsible for working with provincial governors to “curb possible violence throughout Thailand.” In other words, he worked with the junta – the Council for National Security – to crack down on potential demonstrations opposing the military-backed government, including limiting the freedom of movement of rural people. During the 2007 general election, he was “in charge of advance balloting.”

All of this means that the Democrat Party is appointing a trusted policeman. Why is this so important?

One answer is to look at PPT’s post on Chai-Anan Samudavanija, the PAD ideologue, who says that the “police are 100% for Thaksin and the red shirts.”

Another answer lies in the promotions and seniority problem Abhisit is trying to deal with. This is why the “prime minister … said a police reshuffle list under the new organisational structure of the Royal Thai Police Office would be put on hold. He would rather leave the list to be finalized by the next police chief. Pol Gen Patcharawat is due to retire at the end of September.” This is also why Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has “ordered the Police Commission to a meeting soon to review the list, which involves high-level police officers. Mr Suthep denied a report that the reshuffle would be reviewed because some officers were not satisfied that they were excluded, saying it was only a rumour. He insisted that no politicians had interfered in the making of the list.”

That would seem highly unlikely, but Abhisit and Suthep need to avoid such allegations as such interference is unlawful.

Abhisit and Suthep are trying to prevent the rise of Police General “Prieopan Damapong, a deputy national police chief, who is the senior-most officer. However, Prieopan is the older brother of Pojaman, the ex-wife of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and is current on assignment at provincial police units.”

In other words, impartiality has nothing to do with these actions. Rather, the aim is to appoint political allies and try to take control of the police.

This was tried before, when Seripisut Temiyavet (originally Seri Temiyavet) was appointed under the CNS, but who was not always politically reliable and got into trouble over lese majeste issues..

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