By KITTIPONG THAVEVONG
Vasit, a former deputy national police chief and former deputy interior minister, passed away on Wednesday night at Police General Hospital, where he had been treated for pancreas cancer for two weeks. He was 88 years old.
He was viewed as a key royalist who often praised the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej for what the monarch did for the country and the people during his reign. Vasit was also known for his public defence of the monarchy against criticism.
After the late monarch passed away on October 13, 2016, Vasit said the news brought him great sorrow although, due to the rule of nature, the passing did not surprise him at all.
“I thought the King would certainly pass away some day. But I had often cursed myself to die before he did. It’s because I didn’t want to hear this bad news,” he said.
After serving in the police force for almost three decades, Vasit gained the top rank of police general in 1989 and became a deputy national police chief in charge of special affairs, one of a select few to ever rise to that level without first graduating from the Royal Police Academy.
In August 1990, he left the police force to join the Chatichai Choonhavan government as deputy interior minister. But his time in politics was short-lived as he left the Cabinet in December that year, just a little over three months later.
For almost 12 years between 1970 and 1981, Vasit worked in the Office of Police Attached to the Court. That work allowed him to develop his respect and love for the late King while providing protection to the Royal family.
Vasit recounted his impression of the closeness between the monarch and his people. Many loyal subjects wanted to get as close to the late King as possible during his visits to different areas throughout the country. And that made the work of royal bodyguards like him more difficult.
“As court police, we had to assume that people who wanted to get close [to the King] might have ulterior motives. But in fact, most of them simply wanted to touch the King, or even his shoes. Some of them wanted to hand their petitions to the King in person,” said the former chief royal bodyguard.
Vasit was also well known as a productive novel writer, under the penname “Ko Bangkok”. His novels were mostly about policing and crime and more than a dozen of them became widely popular. He also wrote short stories and non-fiction anecdotes under his real name. Many of his novels were put into life as television series and films, mostly in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1998, Vasit was honoured with the prestigious title of National Artist in Literature by the Culture Ministry.
In his column in the Matichon newspaper, where he had served on the editorial advisory board, Vasit criticised the police force from time to time regarding irregularities in personnel transfers and complaints against senior executives at the Royal Thai Police, among other issues.
Vasit once said he considered it was his duty, towards the country and the monarchy, to comment publicly and to campaign against injustice in politics and public administration.
“My audience or readers may not be capable of fighting against bad politicians or bureaucrats. But at least they know what those people did wrong. I am ready to face the consequences of what I do. As long as I am physically able, I will continue doing it,” he said.
In reflecting on Thai society, Vasit once said, “We often teach our children and grandchildren about freedom and rights. But we forget to teach them about duty. People are aware of protecting their rights but they don’t do their duty when required.”
Vasit was born in northeastern Udon Thani province on November 14, 1929. Both of his parents were schoolteachers.
He graduated with a bachelors degree from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science. Later, he got a masters degree in Public Administration from New York University in the United States. While in the US, he also attended courses at the New York police academy and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Vasit began his career as a lecturer at his alma mater, Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, in 1952. Later, he joined the police force – starting with the Special Branch, then the Central Investigation Bureau, Border Patrol Police, before moving in 1970 to the Office of Police Attached to the Court, which was part of the Royal Aide-de-Camp Department. Vasit served at the court police office for almost 12 years and became its commander in 1978.
He was appointed a member of the National Legislative Assembly in 1973, a senator in 1989 and then again in 1996.
Vasit was married to Khunying Tassana Bunnag in 1957, and they had two children and three grandchildren.
His funeral ceremony is being held at Makut Kasatariyaram Temple in Bangkok. The bathing rite yesterday was presided over by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. The Abhidhamma praying ceremony started yesterday and runs until June 25 at 7pm.