BANGKOK — A soldier who spoke out about the alleged corruption in the army said Tuesday he’s willing to face any legal repercussions for his actions.
Sgt. Narongchai Intharakawi, an ordnance corps clerk, was accused of deserting his post by the military after he left his unit to lodge a complaint against an alleged fraud in the allowance money. The army soon launched an investigation whether Sgt. Narongchai broke any regulations, but the sergeant said he’s ready for any blowback.
“I’m ready sir,” Narongchai wrote on his Facebook, which was then reshared by transparency activist Veera Somkwamkid. “I’m waiting for a warrant from the military court. I will turn myself in to put an end to it.”
Narongchai added that he is willing to give up his ranks in exchange for justice.
“If you want to strip my ranks, I’m willing to return them, but will you be able to give me justice?” Narongchai said. “I deserted my duty. I have no salary, job, or place to live, and I’m now being prosecuted. But those who are corrupt are still wearing their uniforms, receiving their pay from taxpayers’ money. Is this what you call reform?”
But army spokesman Winthai Suvaree said the sergeant refused to return to his barrack since September, even before the scandal which broke out this year’s April. The army therefore considers his action as desertion, Col. Winthai said.
Winthai also said the investigation into Narongchai’s actions are not related to a separate inquiry whether the corruption took place as claimed by the sergeant. An army-led inquiry committee has found substantial evidence to support Narongchai’s accusations, the spokesman added.
Narongchai previously reported the scandal to a Parliament’s committee on transparency; he said the complaints he filed to the army’s internal auditors went nowhere.
A leaked video also showed a general reprimanding Narongchai for going to the civilians about the alleged misconduct.
Speaking on Tuesday, army commander-in-chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong said he has been informed about Narongchai’s allegations. He said the matter is being investigated down the chain of command, and urged Narongchai to respect the army’s internal investigation mechanism.
“If we don’t have the chain of command, then we can’t control the force,” Apirat said. “Direct commanders are responsible first, if justice is not delivered, then the complaint should be filed through the protocols.”
Apirat also said the sergeant never reached out to the hotline he established for low-ranking servicemen to report misdeeds within the force.