The Commander of the Royal Thai Army 41st Military Circle, which heads Army operations in Phuket, has reported that nine individuals have been questioned following a complaint accusing army officers of “collecting money” from business operators on the island.
“We received a complaint about corruption in Phuket stating that military officers were involved,” Maj Gen Arkom Pongprom, Commander of the 41st Military Circle, told a public meeting at Provincial Hall the day before yesterday (Nov 28).
“Our office does not have a policy for us to collect money from business operators,” he said.
“Our investigation into the allegation led us to nine individuals. We questioned them, but as we did not catch them red-handed and do not have enough evidence to prosecute them, they have not been punished.
“However, they are under surveillance and required to report to us from time to time,” Gen Arkom said.
In elusive language, Gen Arkom said the nine suspects “come from different agencies”, but did not in Thai language specifically identify that they agencies were governmental, or that the suspects were officials in active service.
Accusations of army officers involved in collecting payments from local businesses follows police and army investigators releasing without charge Prapoj Nunphakdee after he was caught impersonating a high-ranking army officer.
Maj Kanan Somrak of the Chalong Police Station told The Phuket News yesterday that after investigating the motive behind Mr Prapoj’s antics no charges would be brought against him because he had done nothing to deceive anyone. (See story here.)
The meeting at Provincial Hall yesterday was held to announce that Phuket Governor Chockchai Dejamornthan will spearhead a campaign by law-enforcement officers, including military personnel and police to crack down on the “top five” issues plaguing the island.
Gov Chockchai named the “top five issues” as 1) “organising” Phuket beaches; 2) taxi management 3) encroachment and wastewater management; 4) mafia and entertainment venues and 5) gambling and corruption.
Among the officials present at the meeting were Royal Thai Navy Third Area Commander Vice Admiral Surapol Kuptaphan, Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Teeraphol Thipjaroen and Provincial Chief Prosecutor Banjerd Rattanamanotham.
Maj Gen Teeraphol said that police were “ready to help with the top five issues”.
“We will strictly enforce the law and eradicate all illegal activity,” he promised.
After the meeting, officials inspected Surin Beach,where Gov Chocchai said, “Today we still find vendors sneaking back into the area and we asked them to cooperate with the government.
“I understand that some of these vendors have no place to go, so I have ordered the Thalang District Chief to organise an area outside of the beach territory for them,” he said.
No mention was made of any work that was to begin on the B800 million Rajabhakti Park to be built at Surin Beach in honour His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.
Construction was to begin in October. (See story here.)
Also, no mention was made of the troublesome issue of wastewater seeping onto Surin Beach as recently as last week. (See story here.)
However, Army Gen Arkom pointed that security concerns were being addressed.
“It is the 41st Military Circle’s duty to keep peace and order in Phuket and Nakhorn Sri Thammarat. Phuket has been a target for terrorists, so security for residents and tourists is our top priority,” Gen Arkom said.
“We will focus on the beaches, public transport such as taxis, and also security at the airport. “I would like to ask residents and business operators to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity or items and report them to police immediately,” he added.
“Business operators must make sure their CCTV is in the working condition and security guards for entertainment venues, government office, businesses must be vigilant and posted 24 hours.”
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