The Police Commission on Friday approved a new position at headquarters, amid speculation that it will be filled by Surachate Hakparn, who is poised to return after two years of mysterious exile from law enforcement.
The advisory position, equal in rank to an assistant police chief post, was approved a week after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha signed an order to transfer Pol Lt Gen Surachate, better known as “Big Joke”, from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Royal Thai Police Office.
The prime minister, who chaired the meeting, denied the new post has been created exclusively for any individual, saying the slot was part of a plan for restructuring the organisation and its personnel.
His denial was echoed by national police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk, who said the holder of the advisory post would be tasked with mapping out a police strategy more closely aligned with government policy.
But Pol Gen Suwat neither admitted nor denied that Pol Lt Gen Surachate would be a candidate for the position, saying it was too soon to jump to a conclusion.
The commission has to select an officer to fill the newly created post, and the police chief did not guarantee that the choice would be made in time for the next meeting in April.
But speculation is rife that Pol Lt Gen Surachate is the front-runner for the job as he prepares to return to Pathumwan.
If and when he returns, it is not clear whether he will cultivate the same kind of high profile that he had before.
As chief of the Immigration Bureau he was in the headlines almost daily. When he wasn’t busy being photographed at the latest roundup of illegal aliens, he might be seen presiding over the arrest of a few dozen street racers or a gang of drug dealers.
But he was shunted from his position at the Immigration Bureau to an inactive post as an adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office in 2019, for reasons that have never been made clear.
Equally murky were the circumstances surrounding an incident in which shots were fired at the high-profile lawman’s Lexus SUV in January last year.
He claimed the attack was related to the Immigration Bureau’s controversial procurement of an expensive biometric ID system, a decision he had opposed.
Another casualty of that incident was deputy national police chief Wirachai Songmetta.
He was sacked after the release of an audio recording in which a senior officer, later identified as then-national chief Chakthip Chaijinda, was heard warning him to stay out of the Big Joke case.
Gen Prayut signed a transfer order on March 5 for the return of Pol Lt Gen Surachate to the police agency but the process has not been completed.
Police spokesman Pol Maj Gen Yingyos Thepjamnong said on Friday the transfer of Big Joke was not taken up in the commission meeting.
The issue must go to the police chief after the order is sent to the police office from Government House.