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Prawit defends junta’s use of special powers against mafia

Mar 30. 2016
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By THE NATION

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NCPO says powers will not be abused; only influential figures being targeted.
DEPUTY Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday defended the National Council for Peace and Order’s decision to resort to special powers provided by Article 44 of the junta-imposed interim charter to crack down on the mafia.
Prawit said the NCPO needed military personnel in cracking down on the mafia because of the shortages of police.
NCPO spokesman Colonel Piyapong Klinpan said military officials would not abuse the powers given to them because they would only take action against influential figures who are on the NCPO’s blacklist and who commit offences listed in a group of 16.
He said that although the NCPO’s deadline to complete the policy on the mafia crackdown was at the end of April, if officials cannot achieve effective results because of certain hurdles, they can continue the work as ordered by the junta. 
Royal Thai Police deputy spokesman Pol Colonel Krissana Pattanacharoen said the NCPO empowered military officials to suppress crimes against national security and those that damage the country’s economy. They can carry out searches without warrants, seize assets, summon suspects and detain them for seven days.
The order took effect on Tuesday.
He said the military officials could take action against offenders who commit at least one of 27 offences and offenders fall into three criteria that identify them as mafioso or those connected to organised crime.
Krissana defended the move, saying it was necessary because the police were struggling with a lack of manpower and the NCPO’s order did not give too much power to the military.
Political observers believe that the junta issued the order because it had issued a similar one before, which was NCPO 3/2558, but it only covered three types of crime: national security, lese majeste and possession of war weapons. The order cannot be used under the 16 offences influential figures can be charged with.
Officials cannot arrest gunmen who do not use war-grade weapons but sidearms to commit crimes such as intimidation in loan-sharking, extortion and the drug trade.
The NCPO had wanted to issue an additional order to NCPO 3/2558 but Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said it could cause confusion and advised the junta to issue a new order. 
A source said that without such authority, soldiers could not carry out their duty effectively. They have to wait for police to take part in the operation and they must obtain search warrants beforehand. 
“In many cases the soldiers fail to arrest any suspects. In the provinces, these criminals are tipped off and escape before officials can apprehend them,” the source said.
The source added they had connections with local and national politicians and if their arrests were hampered by red tape, the NCPO feared that it could affect the reform agenda and the referendum on the charter draft. 

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