BANGKOK — Police top brass remained silent Monday on the bombshell revelation by an opposition MP that police officers can advance up the ranks just by securing a letter signed by powerful figures, without having to go through the formal channels.
Move Forward Party lawmaker Rangsiman Rome showed evidence of the shortcut, known as “The Elephant Ticket,” during a censure debate on Friday, and accused Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his deputy Prawit Wongsuwan of turning blind eye to the alleged corruption. But a police spokesman said the force isn’t required to provide any response.
“The opposition MP made the accusations against the government, so the police have no duty to respond,” Col. Kissana Phathanacharoen said. “However, the police may verify the content and authenticity of the police appointment documents published online.”
Another police spokesman, Maj. Gen. Yingyot Thepchamnong, turned down the request for comments about Rangsiman’s accusations, because he was seeing a doctor.
“I’m not available right now,” Yingyot said, before hanging up the phone.
Police reform activist Wirut Sirisawasdibut said he is not surprised by Rangsiman’s revelation.
“What’s the fuss about it?” Wirut said. “It’s already existed for decades already, but it was only presented with evidence [by Rangsiman]. Fortune favors the bold, if you don’t pay for your position or approach your boss, you wouldn’t get it.”
Wirut, who served as a police colonel, said the current police appointment regulation is vaguely written and can be easily exploited.
“They want to keep it open,” Wirut said. “What defines competency? They could just say this police officer has the ability to hold this position without getting tested or spending enough time in tenure.”
During Friday’s no-confidence debate, Rangsiman said 20 police officers were exempted from the official criteria for a promotion and fast tracked to a higher position after their names were listed in “The Elephant Ticket.”
The ticket is said to be a document signed by Royal Household Bureau sec-gen Sathitpong Sukvimol, who asked a certain institution for permission to vault those men up their ranks.
The promotions were granted, even though Sathitpong – whose previous positions include the head of the Crown Property Bureau – does not currently have any formal position in the police force.
Mentions of the “Elephant Ticket” appear to be mentioned for the first time in an investigative report by MGR Online news agency back in 2017.
“The best kind of Ticket, or promotion recommendation letter, that has never been refused, no matter what the requested positions are, is called Elephant Ticket,” the article said. “This fact is only known within the police circle.”
At Friday’s debate, Rangsiman presented a similar scheme run by Sathitpong’s brother, Maj. Gen. Torsak Sukvimol, who now serves as the commander of the police’s Central Investigation Bureau. He’s also the chief of the Ratchawallop Police Retainers, King’s Guard 904.
He showed a document signed by Torsak asking then-national police commissioner Chakthip Chaijinda to promote three police officers, citing the fact that they have completed the Royal Volunteer Spirit 904 training course – a program initiated by King Vajiralongkorn.
Rangsiman was forced to mention names by their initials during his speech when presiding House Speaker Supachai Phuso said he is not allowed to reference individuals outside the parliament.
He was eventually ordered by Supachai to stop his speech after multiple protests by coalition lawmakers, but he continued the presentation at a news conference outside the chamber. Due to legal concerns, Khaosod English cannot discuss Rangsiman’s allegations or the documents he cited in full details, though they were readily available on social media.
A government aide already threatened to press royal defamation charges against Rangsiman for making references to the monarchy.
Prayut, who chairs the Police Commission, which oversees police appointments, responded to Rangsiman’s accusations by saying every appointment under his oversight was done according to laws and police regulations.
However, he did not directly address the “Elephant Ticket” itself.
Pro-democracy activists are set to hold a rally near the national police headquarters on Tuesday evening to call police officers to join force against the alleged corruption scheme within their ranks.
Speaking at a news conference earlier today, police spokesman Yingyot said he does not believe that there will be any officers joining the protest at Ratchaprasong Intersection.
“I think they know what is appropriate or not,” Yingyot said. “Personally, I believe there will be no officers joining, but they may observe it under their duties.”