National anti-graft commission will file criminal charges against ex-Premier Somchai Wongsawat, ex-deputy PM Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and Police Chief Pol Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwan for their involvement in the October 7 crackdown on yellow shirted protesters.
Wicha Mahakun, a commissioner of National Anti-Corruption Committee (NCCC), said the commission recommended severe disciplinary action against Patcharawat.
Wicha said Somchai and Chavalit would be charged with nonfeasance in violation of Article 157 of the Criminal Code.
The NACC also decided to seek both criminal and disciplinary actions against then Metropolitan police chief Pol Lt Gen Suchart Meunkaew.
They were among nine top officials alleged to have committed malfeasance in ordering and using force to disperse the crowd of PAD protesters rallying in front of the Parliament on October 7 last year.
Two protesters were killed and nearly 500 people were wounded or injured when police fired teargas into the demonstrators near Parliament and at Metropolitan Police Bureau headquarters.
Earlier National anti-graft panel said Monday it may delay today’s ruling on the October 7 crackdown on anti-government protesters after the national police chief submitted a letter of complaint and new evidence to the panel.
Somluck Chadkrabuanpol, a member of the National Anti-Corruption Committee , said Police Chief Pol Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwan submitted his complaint and additional evidence to the panel.
The panel will meet Monday to verify the evidence.
“If his evidence is not important, the NCCC will conclude the case immediately,” said Somluck, “but if the new evidence is significant to the case, we might delay the ruling.”
Former PM, Police Chief Face Charges over Oct 7 Crackdown
The anti-graft panel has found former prime minister Somchai Wongsawad, former deputy PM Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, the national police chief and the city police chief guilty of violating the Criminal Code’s Article 157 for their roles in the violent police crackdown on yellow-shirt protesters on October 7 last year.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission, or NACC, revealed the results of the panel’s investigation into the controversial dispersal of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, or PAD, protesters outside Parliament on October 7, 2008, which caused one death and many injuries.
The panel ruled six to three that then prime minister Somchai Wongsawad and former deputy PM Chavalit Yongchaiyudh violated the Criminal Code’s Article 157 on dereliction of duty by ordering the dispersal of the yellow-shirt protesters.
Moreover, national police chief Police General Patcharawat Wongsuwan and then commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, Police Lieutenant General Suchart Muankaew, were also found guilty by eight to one of committing severe criminal and disciplinary offences for refusing to stop the violent crackdown as the two were in command of the operations.
The panel said the five other accused, including the deputy national police chiefs and deputy city police chiefs, were cleared of the charges as they only followed the orders of their superiors.
The NACC will forward its investigation report to the Attorney General to file an indictment against Somchai and Chavalit with the Supreme Court’s division for cases against political post holders while the complaint against Police General Patcharawat and Police Lieutenant General Suchart will be submitted to the Criminal Court.
The ruling against Police General Patcharawat will force the prime minister to seek the Police Policy Commission’s recommendation on whether the police chief and Police Lieutenant General Suchart should be dismissed from their posts.
The commission should come up with a decision in 30 days and it will be given another 15 days to inform the anti-graft panel of the decision.
The prime minister, however, declined to comment whether deputy police chief Police General Wichien Podposri will be reappointed as interim police chief if Police General Patcharawat is removed from his post. He insisted any action against the police chief will be based on legal procedures.
NACC accuses Patcharawat of malfeasance
The National Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday named retiring national police chief Pol General Patcharawat Wongsuwan as one of four top suspects in malfeasance related to the crackdown on anti-government protesters last October 7.
The NACC’s resolution will pave the way for criminal and disciplinary proceedings against the suspects within 30 days.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said a caretaker national police chief would be named if General Patcharawat could not perform his duties for the rest of this month.
Besides General Patcharawat, the NACC resolved that former Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and his deputy PM, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, were also named as malfeasance suspects in the botched anti-riot operation.
General Patcharawat’s aide, Lt-General Suchart Muenkaew, who was the officer in charge of crowd control at the time, in his capacity as commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, was is the other suspect.
The four will stand trial in the Supreme Court. Patcharawat and Suchart will face internal police proceedings for serious disciplinary violations in addition to the judicial review.
With the NACC’s ruling on a disciplinary offence as prescribed for Patcharawat, his dismissal will likely be enforced retroactively, as Patcharawat is due to retire at the end of this month.
It remains to be seen whether the Police Board, chaired by Prime Minister Abhisit, will grant leniency and thus allow him to keep his pension.
Disciplinary proceedings for Suchart will be handled by the Police Commission, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban.
The NACC found cause to suspect the guilt of the four because they deliberately neglected to intervene and halt the botched operation even after casualty numbers soared, said NACC member Wicha Mahakhun.
“Somchai and Chavalit were responsible for ordering police to disperse the crowds while Patcharawat and Suchart failed to halt the botched operation after high casualties became evident early in the morning,” Wicha said.
The other five officers involved in the botched operation were not indicted, because they merely carried out orders issued by their superiors, he said.
Under the anti-graft law, public prosecutors are obligated to complete the prosecution review in a month. The deadline can be extended if deemed necessary to collect additional evidence.
Somchai’s lawyer, Wattana Tiankul, said his client authorised him to file an administrative lawsuit disputing the NACC proceedings.
Somchai petitioned the NACC to seek additional information on the October 7 crackdown from the National Information Committee. He had earlier sought and received the committee’s permission to grant access to the NACC to examine classified documents, scheduled for today.
The NACC ignored the petition and proceeded to rule on the case, Wattana said.
By The Nation
Published on September 8, 2009