BANGKOK — Former immigration chief on Wednesday said he was targeted in a drive-by shooting earlier this week because he refused to approve a multi-billion baht procurement under his tenure.
In the first public interview since his abrupt removal in April 2019, Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn said the shooting is most likely linked to the Immigration Bureau’s 2.1 billion-baht procurement of a biometric system, which he said he did not sign on because it was fraught with financial irregularities.
“I signed two documents asking police commissioner to cancel the project because it was not delivered on time,” Surachate told reporters at Bang Rak police station. “I signed them because the project was ridden with flaws, but somehow no one chose to cancel it.”
“The incident happened just before the anti-graft commission’s call for testimonies,” he added. “I don’t want to challenge anyone, but I just want the truth to be revealed because the project cost the nation more than 2 billion baht.”
CCTV footage of the shooting incident on Jan. 6.
Two gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire at his car parked on Surawong Road on Monday night before fleeing the scene. No one was hurt in the incident; Surachate was safe inside a massage shop at the time.
Police said the investigation is ongoing but have yet to name any suspects. Speaking to reporters today, the former superstar cop slammed the police for its slow progress.
“When I served as a policeman, I could arrest those criminals who fled to other countries,” Surachate said. “This case is not complicated at all, but why can’t they solve it after three days have passed already?”
He also suggested the police had inside information about the incident.
“The inner circle would know it. Police would know who it is … I have the information the lead to the suspects, but I don’t want to disclose it now,” Surachate said. “If the person is not powerful, he wouldn’t dare to do it.”
Deputy police commissioner Wirachai Songmetta said investigators believed the suspects are professionals, as evidence suggested that they have scouted the site in advance and appeared to know Surachate’s whereabouts.
According to Immigration Bureau’s documents, the 2.1 billion baht procurement project was initiated in 2015, before Surachate took up the post in 2018.
Surachate said he told police commissioner Chakthip Chaijinda in 2018 to cancel the project after delivery delays and other flaws.
Immigration officials often touted the biometric system at Thailand’s international airports as a crucial tool to detect passport fraud and prevent criminals from entering the Kingdom.
The system went online nationwide in May 2019. Two months later, immigration police announced that over 7,000 people were caught for immigration-related offenses thanks to the biometric program.
Immigration chief Sompong Chingduang could not be reached for comment at publication time. An immigration commander that oversees Suvarnabhumi Airport refers questions to the chief of the bureau’s technology center Chakthip Satapimolsak, who also declined to comment.
“I’m not in a position to speak to the media. Interviews have to be approved by my supervisors first,” Col. Chakthip said.
Monday’s shooting placed Surachate back in the spotlight after he was removed from the force without any explanation in April 2019 and transferred to a relatively obscure civilian post at Government House. He had been rarely seen in public since, and the media was discouraged from speculating on his fate or his dismissal.
The fall from grace took many by surprise because Surachate was widely considered to be a potential successor to the incumbent Police Commissioner.