Sex, drugs and bid-rigging: How ‘influential figures’ thrive in Thailand
The murder of a highway police officer at the residence of Praween Chankhlai, also known as “Kamnan Nok” – an influential figure in Nakhon Pathom province – has raised questions about how ‘influential figures’ make fortunes in Thailand – and get away with it.
The tragic event that triggered a national discussion occurred at a birthday party on the night of September 6 when highway police officer Pol Major Siwakorn Saibua was shot dead.
The shooting reportedly stemmed from an argument over a promotion. According to eyewitnesses, Praween’s alleged henchman, Thananchai Manmak, approached the dining table and opened fire on Siwakorn.
Praween is well known for his frequent parties and the people who attend them: Police, government officials and local celebrities. He also runs a business that bids for many government projects.
Praween surrendered to police on September 7 and was detained on September 9.
Investigators opposed granting him bail because he had been a "kamnan" (sub-district headman) for nine years. As a kamnan, he had the authority to arrest or conduct an investigation in areas under his control. He also has close ties with police officers in many other areas.
Influential figures, in general, make fortunes from 16 illegal or dubious methods:
1. Granting informal loans
2. Bid-rigging for government projects
3. Bribing transport operators
4. Exploiting entrepreneurs
5. Smuggling goods to evade taxes
6. Running gambling dens
8. Human trafficking
9. Cheating workers seeking overseas jobs
10. Ripping off tourists
11. Arranging hits
12. Using force to collect debts
13. Smuggling military-grade weapons or illegal guns
14. Encroaching public land or destroying natural resources
15. Imposing tolls on public highways
16. Smuggling or selling narcotics.