SURAT THANI – The deputy commander of the Surat Thani police force has reportedly admitted to receiving a police decoration from the leader of the former anti-government movement, Suthep Thaugsuban.
In a photograph that went viral on the internet this week, Suthep can be seen bestowing the rank of deputy commander to Pol.Maj.Gen. Abhichart Boonsriroj, who was wearing a full uniform for the honour.
Suthep, the former Deputy Prime Minister who quit his post as a Democrat MP to lead six months of protests against the elected government last year, was ordained as a Buddhist monk shortly after the military staged a coup on 22 May 2014.
A number of Redshirts, who supported the former government, have criticised the photo on social media and accused Pol.Maj.Gen. Abhichart of displaying a political bias by giving the decorating honour to the hardcore Yellowshirt activist.
Pol.Maj.Gen. Abhichart refused to speak to the media on the matter, but his close associates told Khaosod that the police officer chose Suthep, who used to represent Surat Thani in his MP career, out of "personal respect."
"He grew up in Surat Thani, he has his police career here," a friend of Pol.Maj.Gen. Abhichart said. "He has always been close to Phra Suthep."
The Thai police force is considered thoroughly corrupt and politicised, with different factions loyal to either the Redshirt or Yellowshirt movements.
A similar controversy erupted in 2012, when Pol.Lt.Gen Kamronwit Thoopkrachang, chief of the Bangkok police at the time, placed a photo (below) of himself receiving a police rank decoration from former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the de facto leader of the Redshirts, in front of his office.
The photo bears the caption, "I am here today because of you, big brother."
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