Torsak returns as police chief as PM-ordered probe team submits report

FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 2024

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has given permission for Pol General Torsak " Big Tor" Sukvimol to resume his position as the commissioner-general following the results of an investigation into the internal conflict within the Royal Thai Police.

The statement came from Wissanu Krea-ngam, the adviser to the prime minister, on Thursday (June 20).

Srettha had ordered the inquiry after the police force was riven with conflict between Torsak and his deputy police chief, Pol General Surachate Hakparn.

Sources in the police community and experts said they had expected the result of the investigation to result in a "tie" for the two top police officers even before Wissanu was assigned to announce it. 

There were rumours of negotiations and exchanges, though it is unclear how these negotiations took place or who was involved.

Under the new settlement of the row that had brought the police into disrepute, Torsak returns to his previous position as police chief, completely in the clear.

Surachate is waiting for the order of his suspension from service to be lifted, as there have been suggestions that the order might have been illegal.

With the dark clouds over him lifting, Torsak will be able to retire as the commissioner-general of the Royal Thai Police.

Surachate can breathe easier, returning to his position as deputy commissioner-general of the Royal Thai Police, with a chance to be nominated as the new commissioner-general, as the accusations against him are under investigation by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). 

Torsak returns as police chief as PM-ordered probe team submits report

According to legal principles, if an accusation is under investigation by the NACC, it will affect the consideration of appointments, transfers, and disciplinary investigations by the Royal Thai Police.

This is why Surachate is making every way to get his case to be investigated by the NACC instead of being handled by police investigators.

Big Tor will not be able to make the annual appointments and transfer list of police officers or propose the name of the new commissioner-general because the appointments will take effect in October, after Torsak has already retired.

The return of "Big Tor" to the helm frees Pol General Kittirat "Big Tai" Panpetch from his role as the acting commissioner-general.

If Torsak retires and Surachate doesn’t face any further charges, he could become the acting commissioner-general as the most senior officer.

However, it is important to watch closely from now on whether any complaints or legal actions will be filed against "Big Tai", which could limit the number of candidates for the commissioner-general’s position. This would increase Surachate’s chances of being appointed, living up to his reputation as the “cat with more than nine lives”.

The four-month investigation was conducted by a special committee headed by Chatchai Promlert, a former Interior Ministry permanent secretary.

On March 20, Srettha transferred Torsak and Surachate to inactive posts after a war of words broke out between the police chief and his No. 2. The PM set up a panel to investigate the conflict, in which both the top cops accused each other and their subordinates of involvement in online gambling and other crimes.

The high-profile cases that caused the conflicts included a former Chonburi police chief demanding 140 million baht in “protection money” from an online gambling ring, an influential person in Nakhon Pathom province ordering the killing of a highway police officer, the Minnie and BNK online gambling networks, and several smaller corruption and misconduct cases.