“Three in One?” or “Give me three months.” or “We go to China three times a year.”
I am not sure what National Police Chief Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwan was saying when he held up his three fingers last night while talking to reporters.
He did say things that could at best be interpreted as being defiant to Premier Abhsit Vejjajiva about whether he was going to “step aside” from his post for a while for political reasons.
The premier had said earlier in the day that the national police chief had sought to take a leave of absence “for about ten days and extendable to about a month” so that the investigations into the attempted assassination of Sondhi Limthongkhun could “proceed without obstacles.”
That was immediately seen as a compromise. The premier had been rumoured to be contemplating removing or transferring Patcharawas. The move was urged on by Sondhi claiming that the police chief was blocking the probe. Patcharwas sued for defamation. Deputy Premier SuthepThuaksuban was against the move. Defence Minister Gen Pravit Wongsuwan, Patcharawas’ elder brother, asked publicly: “What has my brother done wrong?”
The premier met Patcharawas at Baan Pitsanuloke earlier in the day. It was supposed to be a talk to reach a mutually acceptable solution. So, when the premier revealed to reporters that the police chief was taking a month’s leave of absence, it was a sort of “meeting at halfway” kind of solutin.
But a few hours later, Patcharawas emerged to give a somewhat different story.
No, he wasn’t applying for leave of absence. Yes, he is due to go to China for ten days as part of the annual three exchange programmes between the two countries. No, he does’t know when he is going. Yes, he is still going to work on Monday. And, no, he didn’t consider himself an obstacle in the probe.
What will the PM do now? He is obviously in a great dilemma. If he removes Patcharawat off the hook, he will be seen by the military and police as being used by Sondhi as a tool. If he keeps him, Sondhi and his group will continue to apply public pressure.
If he tries to strike a compromise, he gets blamed by all sides concerned!
Looming face-off between the PM and the Wongsuwan Brothers
It’s not a joke when the “Wongsuwan Family” declared that they could take it no more.
The elder brother, Gen Pravit, is the defence minister. The younger one, Police Gen Patcharwas, happens to be the national police chief.
“We would retaliate through legal, and if necessary illegal, means to protect our integrity,” was the shocking statement from the minister’s secretary earlier this week.
Illegal means too? Wow, that’s more than just an ordinary threat.
You can, of course, trace the conflict to Sondhi Limthongkul, who had indicated quite clerly that he thought the national police chief was the “obstacle” to the investigations into his attempted assassination.
“What has my brother done wrong?” asked the elder one.
The national police chief then filed a defamation charge against ASTV Manager newspaper,Sondhi’s media arm.
PM Abhisit Vejjajiva had to do something about the confrontation. He didn’t want to appear to be under Sondhi’s pressure. But then, he couldn’t afford to be seen to be under the influence of the military and police officers either.
So, he tried to strike a compromise. He was seen meeting Patcharawas at Baan Pitsanuloke Friday morning.
A few hours later, the premier told reporters: Patcharawas will take a leave of absence lasting about one month. He wouldn’t be removed or transferred. During his absence, an acting police chief would take charge “so that the probe into Sondhi’s assassinatin attempt could proceed without obstacles.”
Did he mean Patcharawas was the “obstacle?” The premier said: “No, there is no evidence to suggest that.”
The mystery deepened when, late last evening, Patcharawas emerged to tell reporters that he wasn’t applying for a leave of absence. Yes, he is going to China for ten days but that’s part of a routine annual exchange.
“I still don’t know when I am going though. And I will be working as usual on Monday, Aug 3…”
A slap in the face for the premier? A mutual misunderstanding of some sort? A sign of a looming confrontation between the defence minister-police chief and the prime minister?
All of the above?
PM to consult Suthep on stand-in for Patcharawat
Abhisit says no finality yet on duration of top cop’s leave
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that he would consult his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban on naming an acting National Police chief while General Patcharawat Wongsuwan is on leave.
Abhisit said he would discuss the issue with Suthep after the deputy premier returns from a foreign trip this week.
On Friday, Abhisit said Patcharawat offered to go on vacation starting this week and suspend the annual rotation of senior police so that the investigation into the attempted assassination of Sondhi Limthongkul, a core leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, could move forward without pressure.
When asked by reporters if he would also talk with Patcharawat about who should sit in for him, Abhisit said he would approach Suthep.
Asked whether he would give priority to seniority, Abhisit said he would consider suitability so that the work of police could proceed.
Earlier, deputy National Police chief General Thanee Somboonsap complained that the probe had hit a brick wall because a senior police officer was standing in the way.
Abhisit said he met with Thanee and assistant National Police chief Lt-General Assawin Kwanmueng, another investigator, on Saturday and the two assured him that they were now ready to go ahead with the probe.
Abhisit said he told the two that if there were no more problems, they would not have to report their progress to him anymore.
He said he did not give them a 10-day deadline as speculated by the media.
Thanee was confident that the case would be wrapped up before he reaches mandatory retirement at the end of September, Abhisit said.
Asked whether Patcharawat would take 10 days off and whether that was long enough, Abhisit said the length of Patcharwat’s leave was not certain yet.
Abhisit said he had not fallen afoul of the Constitution by meddling with the annual police reshuffle as alleged by the Pheu Thai Party.
Patcharawat was seen smiling when he visited his mother at her home on Lat Phrao Soi 71 to have breakfast with his family.
His elder brother, Defence Minister Prawit, also showed up.
Pongphan, his younger brother, said Patcharawat did not mention any problem and appeared to be in good spirits.
Thepthai Senpong, the personal spokesman of Abhisit as Democrat Party leader, also said Abhisit did not interfere in the annual police shuffle in violation of Article 266 of the Constitution.
Thepthai said the police reassignments would be just put on hold for the next police chief to review.
According to a Suan Dusit Poll, most people oppose Patcharawat’s leave.
The survey found that 57 per cent of the respondents disagreed with the police chief taking leave as a way out while 43 per cent supported it.
By The Nation
Published on August 3, 2009
A greater margin – 65 per cent – saw Patcharawat’s leave as not benefiting the probe at all.