‘Big Joke’ Unhurt in Downtown Drive-By Shooting

A file photo of then-immigration chief Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn

BANGKOK — Police said Tuesday morning they were on the hunt for a pair of gunmen who fired a handgun at the car of former immigration chief Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn in downtown Bangkok last night.

Deputy police commissioner Wirachai Songmetta said police are collecting evidence at the scene and studying CCTV footage of the area where Surachate’s car was shot up, though he refused to speculate on the motives. No one was injured in the shooting.

“We need more time to investigate it,” Gen. Wirachai said.

Wirachai also said police are taking the case seriously because the area was frequented by many foreign tourists.

According to police, Surachate was in a massage shop on Surawong Road in Bang Rak district on Monday night when two gunmen on a motorcycle drove by and shot at his car in front of the shop at about 8pm.

The assailants fired a total of eight rounds before speeding away, police said.

Surachate, who led the immigration and several other key posts in the police force before his abrupt dismissal in April 2019, did not speak to reporters after the incident.

Although official orders appointed Surachate to a civilian post attached to the Prime Minister’s Office, the police major-general was rarely seen in public since the transfer, which caught many by surprise.

Neither the government nor the police have fully explained the reasons that led to his downfall.