Gov’t Moves ‘Big Joke’ to Obscure Civilian Post

Lt. Gen. Surachate Hakparn (in red circle) during a police meeting on April 9, 2019.

BANGKOK — A former immigration chief was stripped of all police posts in an order released by the junta on Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn, considered a future police commissioner prior to his sudden transfer last week, was moved to a civilian position attached to the Prime Minister’s Office – a downgrade from his influential role in the force. The order, sent out via an internal police memo, also removed Surachate from all existing police duties.

A spokeswoman for PM Prayuth Chan-ocha said Surachate will likely serve as a “special adviser” to the cabinet.

“But it depends on which position the Prime Minister’s Office decides is available for this transfer,” Taksada Sangkachan told reporters today.

Top government officials continue to stay tight-lipped over the abrupt decision to transfer Surachate to an inactive duty. Gen. Prayuth walked past reporters at Government House without responding to their shouts of questions this morning.

Deputy junta chairman Prawit Wongsuwan, who oversees police affairs, was expected to offer an explanation for Surachate’s downfall today, but he did not show up for work. Prawit’s aides said the general is on sick leave and maintained he is not avoiding reporters.

The police issued an order removing Surachate from his powerful post “effective immediately” on April 5, without providing any reasons.

The announcement took many by surprise as Surachate was one of the most visible faces of the police, with his jurisdiction previously including immigration and cybercrimes. Some observers had speculated he would be the future police commissioner.

Surachate was not seen in public for days prior to the transfer order. He was briefly spotted attending a police meeting earlier this morning, but he left without talking to reporters. Phone calls to the former immigration commander were not answered. His public Facebook profile has also been deactivated.

Deputy police commissioner Srivara Ransibrahmanakul did not give a clear answer when questioned by the media today.

“I don’t know everything,” Gen. Srivara said.

Note: Some details were omitted from this story due to legal concerns.