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Gov’t Seeks to Slap MP With Royal Insult Charge For Debate Exposé

Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome speaks at the Parliament on Feb. 19, 2021.

BANGKOK — A senior government official on Saturday said he will file royal defamation charges against an opposition MP who highlighted police corruption during yesterday’s censure debate.

For his bombshell revelation that a handful of government favorites and a royal aide can dictate appointments and removals within the police force at their whim, Move Forward lawmaker Rangsiman Rome may now face charges under Article 112 of the Criminal Codes, known as lese majeste.

“We have transcribed every word and letter of the speeches that Mr. Rangsiman Rome referenced the monarchy,” Suphon Attawong, Assistant Minister to the PM Office, told reporters on Saturday morning. “Our legal team has looked into it and concluded that the information is sufficient for prosecution under Article 112.”

Article 112 carries a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison per count.

Rangsiman, 27, presented the allegations in the non-confidence debate at the Parliament on Friday, to an uproar of pro-government MPs, who made at least 10 protests to his speeches.

Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome speaks at the Parliament on Feb. 19, 2021.

The activist-turned-lawmaker said police officers can gain immediate promotions without going through the formal route if they manage to obtain a “Ticket,” a document signed by Maj. Gen. Torsak Sukvimol, the commander of the Ratchawallop Police Retainers, King’s Guard 904.

According to Rangsiman’s presentation shown to the House Speaker, the document can directly recommend certain police officers to the Royal Thai Police Commissioner for new ranks and titles. The final decision is then endorsed by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan, Rangsiman said.

Both the Prime Minister and his deputy serve as directors of the police affairs.

“Does Gen. Prayut have the courage to insist that this is a fair and transparent way to appoint police officers?” Rangsiman asked.

A file photo of Maj. Gen. Torsak Sukvimol.

Public mentions of the system can be found in a media interview with former police major general Visut Vanichbut, who said in 2016 that the “ticket” can reduce the bribes needed for key positions, from 8 million to 4 million baht.

A police colonel also posted on Facebook back in 2018 that a career advance within the police is near impossible without the “ticket.”

“If you have a boss, if you have money, if you have The Ticket, you’ll get everything,” wrote Col. Kantapong Nilkham, who said he was victim of an unjust demotion. “How can this nation survive? And who will the people depend on?”

Even more damning allegation is the “Elephant Ticket,” a fast track lane for promotions that cut through the entire structure of the police force, according to Rangsiman’s presentation.

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha speaks at the Parliament on Feb. 19, 2021.

The MP said the scheme is run by Torsak’s brother, Sathitpong Sukvimol, who serves as Lord Chamberlain to the royal palace. Documents shown by Rangsiman shows that Sathitpong in 2019 wrote to a certain institution asking for 20 police officers to receive either new ranks or titles.

Sathitpong does not currently have any formal position in the police force.

Upon the mention of Sathitpong’s involvement, coalition politicians immediately protested Rangsiman and urged House Speaker Supachai Phuso to stop his speeches. Supachai agreed and told Rangsiman to conclude his presentation without mentioning the monarchy any further.

Rangsiman complied with the instruction and insisted that he was doing his duty as the Representative of the People.

“I’m aware that this could be the dangerous mission of my life, but since the people already chose me for this job, I’d have to carry out my duty to the best of my ability,” Rangsiman said.

A file photo of Sathitpong Sukvimol.

He added, “I don’t know what will be the consequences of my action from now. I don’t know what waits for me in the next 3 days. I don’t know what will happen in the next 3 months. I don’t know if I’ll still be able to speak on behalf of the people. But no matter what happens, I don’t regret carrying out my duty today.”

After leaving the Parliament, Rangsiman spoke more about his allegations at a news conference, in which he said the corruption within the police institution ends up harming the public interest.

“These Tickets cost millions of baht,” Rangsiman said. “So in the end, police have to live off bribes from gambling dens, illegal businesses, and human trafficking.”

The Move Forward MP also posted the documents he prepared for the Parliament, including mentions of the Elephant Ticket, on his social media account for everyone to see, though several details were censored.

One of the portions blacked out by Rangsiman include the signatures of unidentified man and woman who endorsed police appointments recommended by Sathitpong.

Pro-democracy activists speak at a protest outside the Parliament on Feb. 19, 2021.

Due to legal concerns, Khaosod English cannot elaborate on the documents or discuss Rangsiman’s allegations in full details, though they were readily available on social media – in fact, discussions about the Elephant Ticket was the top trending hashtag on Twitter throughout Friday.

Rangsiman’s post also detailed a bizarre initiative by the police to transfer 1,301 police officers to Ratchawallop Police Retainers, King’s Guard 904.

When 100 officers declined to take up their new posts, they were ordered to a disciplinary course lasting for 9 months, documents show. Three of them immediately resigned from the police force for good, while the rest endured the punishment, included a week of training inside a jungle in Yala province.

Khaosod English cannot republish those documents in full due to fears of legal repercussions.

The four-day censure debate concluded on Friday, amid a new round of anti-government protest just outside the Parliament. The no-confidence vote took place on Saturday morning. All Cabinet members survived the session – the outcome was expected by nearly every observer, since the coalition parties retain a majority of the seats.

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