By The Nation
The accusation has gravely tainted his credibility and the forces under him, as well as the third party who is a “Phu Yai”, according to the source.
The department on Friday held a press conference, along with the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division commander and the Internal Security Operations Command 4 chief, who have been working with him in a number of forest crime suppression cases.
Athapol Charoenshunsa, the RFD’s deputy chief and director of the government’s Forest Protection Operating Centre – a new forest crime suppression command – denied the allegations published in some newspaper columns as “baseless and slanderous”. He said such accusations would create misunderstandings between him and his forces.
“The accusation that a bribe was taken from Mu Lan [a wanted Chinese national], which was used for my promotion as director-general is nothing but slander,” said Athapol.
Athapol was this week promoted as the new RFD director-general shortly before the accusation was spread.
The source said the letters were circulated widely in the department’s internal system as well as that of some other relevant agencies, inflicting grave damage to the reputation of the new chief and the agencies under his command.
The department would try to check past records to see who had entered the systems and released the letters. It was believed that more than one person had done it. The motives could not yet be established.
Athapol, along with his senior colleague, Cheewapap Cheewatham, was picked by their former chief to lead the RFD’s forest crime suppression taskforce, Phaya Prai, in 2014.
He was then picked as a director of the centre in 2016, while being promoted as RFD’s deputy chief. Under his directive, they went after a number of forest crime cases, including the high-profile logging gang believed to be among the country’s largest, led by Mu Lan, who escaped arrest this year and is absconding.
Another source working closely with the centre said bribery was unlikely, as Athapol did not work alone in suppressing the gang.
They needed to consult each other before making any moves.