No Clear Evidence Police Chief Accepted ThaiBev Money: Ombudsman

Bangkok Police Chief Sanit Mahatavorn demonstrates the ‘mini heart’ sign on July 27 along with police, military officers and the 18-year-old vocational student who was a murder suspect in Bangkok.

BANGKOK — A review of whether Bangkok’s police chief violated ethical standards ended Tuesday as the state watchdog said it lacked clear evidence he has ever received a salary from the country’s largest brewer.

In the end, the State Ombudsman accepted the excuse made by Lt. Gen. Sanit Mahathavorn that the 50,000 baht monthly ThaiBev allowance disclosed on his own signed financial statements was entered by mistake.

The office’s secretary-general said his office’s only action would be to notify Sanit to be more careful when preparing documents in the future, especially because he holds a high-ranking position as commander of the Metropolitan Police Bureau and sits as a junta appointee on the legislature.

“In that position, he has the obligation to control alcohol sales,” said Raksagecha Chaechai of the ombudsman’s office. “To say the misinformation was made by mistake sets a bad example.”

The ThaiBev salary, noted as having begun in 2015, was identified in the document Sanit submitted to the National Anti-Corruption Committee, or NACC, upon his appointment to the interim parliament.

It came to public attention in December, sparking public criticism. Sanit refused to address questions about the salary but his surrogates insisted he’d done nothing wrong.

When the ombudsman asked him to clarify the matter in its ethics probe, Sanit and ThaiBev denied ever having a financial relationship.

However, the original copy showed the disclosure was signed by Sanit. Raksagecha said Monday that meant he acknowledged and must be responsible for it.

After Tuesday’s meeting of the state ombudsman, it was concluded there was not adequate evidence to determine that Sanit did took money from the Chang beer maker. They decided to terminate the review and declined to conclude whether Sanit was guilty or innocent.

Raksagecha said it was the NACC’s responsibility to prove it, and his office is only responsible for reviewing the case for any ethical breaches.

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