BANGKOK — Investigation into a drive-by shooting that targeted a former police commander took a strange turn on Thursday after a leaked phone conversation shows the top police chief instructing his deputy to distance himself from the case.
In the audio clip, which has since been confirmed as genuine, police commissioner Chakthip Chaijinda can be heard telling his second-in-command Wirachai Songmetta not to draw public attention to the shooting. Police officials told the media they had no intention to shut down the investigation.
“I confirm that it’s a conversation between the national police chief and his deputy Wirachai Songmetta,” police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen said. “It’s just a regular reiteration of duties. The case is being taken care of by the metropolitan police as usual.”
The spokesman would not speculate who is behind the leak.
“I don’t know who did this,” he said. “But as a matter of courtesy, one should not record a phone call except, someone who has ill intention towards the other party.”
The voice clip was first aired Thursday morning on MCOT’s Inside Thailand news show, where the host described as a conversation between “a senior officer calling from abroad” and “a senior officer in Thailand.”
Gen. Chakthip has been on leave since Jan. 6, according to media reports.
“Just do anything to gain trust from your commanders, don’t make them feel suspicious,” Chakthip says in the clip. “Do you understand? Do whatever you want. That’s all. I want to warn you because many deputies are concerned.”
Chakthip appeared to be chiding Wirachai, who has been speaking to reporters about Monday night’s shooting that targeted the car of former immigration chief Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn.
“Just tell me what you want me to do, sir,” Wirachai replies. “I have to be there because if I don’t do anything, [the public] will think that we’re not doing anything.”
Chakthip then ordered his deputy to steer clear of the case, which is being handled by the Metropolitan Police.
“The metro police are taking care of the case. Don’t be drawn by their plot. It’s noticeable, do you understand?,” Chakthip said.
“So it means I don’t have to get involved in this, sir?” Wirachai asked.
“You don’t have to hold news conferences here and there. There’s nothing about this case. I thought you’re discerning enough not to let them push their personal agenda into this. We all know what P’Toy and Joke are thinking,” he added, using Surachate’s nickname.
It is unclear who the other person Chakthip was referring to.
The audio clip appeared to catch the police top brass off-guard. A press conference hosted by Wirachai, which was scheduled to take place this morning, was postponed to the afternoon.
“I don’t know about the clip. I need to look into the details first,” Wirachai said. “It’s possible that the phone call might have been tapped.”
On Wednesday, Surachate told the media that he might have been targeted because he refused to approve a multi-billion baht procurement of biometric system under his tenure.
Surachate said the devices were not up to standard. The national anti-graft commission on Tuesday issued a letter summoning chiefs of immigration checkpoints to give testimony about the allegations.
Police said the investigation into Monday’s shooting is ongoing but have yet to name any suspects.