The case is now being guided by the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) as it involves criminal activities outside the kingdom with over a thousand pages required to be translated into Thai detailing the business dealings and company structure of Myanmar tycoon Tun Min Latt currently in custody and facing charges of drug trafficking and money laundering. The document also features records of conversations between key players linked to the alleged conspiracy. Firebrand Move Forward Party MP Rangsiman Rome has been left facing defamation proceedings taken by the wealthy Thai senator and former businessman who vehemently denies any involvement in the matter or wrongdoing.
A police enquiry is to be launched into how investigators with the Metropolitan Police Bureau acted independently in seeking an arrest warrant for a sitting Thai senator as part of a drug trafficking investigation. The senator in question, following extraordinary revelations by Move Forward Party MP Rangsiman Rome in parliament in February, has issued defamation proceedings against the MP seeking millions in damages having previously stoutly defended his character to the media. On Sunday, it was revealed that the officers involved in the probe led by a police lieutenant colonel had been removed from the case and transferred to other duties after a warrant was issued by the Criminal Court on October 3rd 2022 for the senator’s arrest and then rescinded within hours.
The National Police Commissioner, Police General Damrongsak Kittiprapat has involved himself in a controversy concerning a warrant issued for a sitting Thai senator which was mysteriously revoked within hours of being issued by the Criminal Court in October 2022.
The issue is being pursued by Move Forward Party MP and legal rights campaigner Rangsiman Rome who last week revealed that the warrant, when rescinded, appeared to have a message for Metropolitan Police Bureau investigating officers suggesting that the person involved was a VIP and that they should be pursuing a different course to have the politician assist them with their enquiries.
Explosive allegations pursued in parliament in February by Rangsiman Rome MP after being furnished information by Mr Chuwit Kamolvisit
This potentially explosive matter was raised by Mr Rangsiman in parliament in February during the Section 152 debate on the government’s performance when the MP linked the senator to property holdings which include links to the current headquarters of the Prime Minister’s United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) party.
PM’s party lashes out at MP Rangsiman Rome’s ‘irresponsible’ revelations in parliament last week
This drew strong criticism from the United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) party which described the statement by the opposition MP as ‘irresponsible’ and unethical while making it clear that it had no direct links with the senator and also questioned whether any evidence had entered into the public domain to support claims that he had been involved in any wrongdoing.
It is understood that Mr Chuwit Kamolvisit furnished a dossier to Mr Rangsiman Rome before the parliamentary debate into alleged corruption involving the police, officials and grey money linked to the international drugs trade on Thailand’s borders.
Court arrest warrant issued for the senator on October 3rd 2022 but rescinded within hours with officers informed the subject was an important person
The arrest warrant sought by a police investigation team led by Police Lieutenant Colonel Manapong Wongpiwat of the Metropolitan Police Bureau on October 3rd 2022 was brought about after the arrest, in September 2022, of four people connected with a conspiracy to traffic narcotics and money laundering including Myanmar tycoon Tun Min Latt, the head of a vast conglomerate in Burma and reportedly a close associate of the daughter of Myanmar’s military coup leader General Min Aung Hlaing.
One person with reportedly close family ties to the senator was among those arrested and has since appeared in court with Mr Tun Min Latt shackled and charged in connection with the case.
During police swoops last September and arrests concerning the case, it is reported that ฿200 million in assets were seized.
Shock police probe into drug dealing and money laundering linked with Myanmar to strain ties
Last September, the Thai senator, in the hours after the police operation in Bangkok, strenuously denied any involvement in the affair and told the media that his business relationship with Mr Tun Min was both in the past and strictly above board.
Senator stoutly defended himself after the police operation in Bangkok in September 2022 while rejecting any association with that ‘type of business’
He said he had dealt with the tycoon concerning electricity trading and the sale of a hotel owned by the senator in the border city of Tachileik in 2015 before becoming a senator in 2019.
‘I clarified with the anti-graft agency before assuming the post of a senator. I have never concealed any information,’ he assured the media.
The senator also suggested that from his own experience and knowledge, Mr Tun Min Latt was a businessman who appeared to be upright and honest.
‘He conducts honest business,’ the senator insisted. ‘My family and I don’t have flawed records.’
‘And for me, let me stress this: In the past eight years since my parents died, I have followed the teachings of Buddhism. I make merit and don’t take life. I’m not in any way interested in this type of business,’ he emphasised.
Lawyers for the senator, on Monday, were increasingly bullish that their client will win his defamation action against the progressive MP in court
Following the allegations and questions raised in parliament in February, lawyers for the senator issued legal writs for defamation against Mr Rangsiman seeking ฿50 million in damages.
In the last 24 hours, one of the senator’s legal representatives has bullishly suggested that the latest developments concerning the case mean that they are confident that the court will convict the MP.
In Thailand, defamation proceedings can be pursued as a civil matter or a criminal one with the senator seeking to apply the full rigours of the law in this instance.
The Move Forward Party MP, a key figure in the party and who has come to the legal aid of progressive activists in the past, has suggested that he will use the court proceedings to air his allegations fully and call witnesses.
Police chief confirms that the enquiry launched will be into how the police investigation team pursued a warrant against the sitting senator
On Monday, the police chief, as he ordered an investigation into the matter, said it would be coordinated by the Police Inspector General’s office and would look at why officers at the Metropolitan Police Bureau had failed to discuss the application for the arrest in question with the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) and more senior officers with the Metropolitan Police Bureau with oversight of investigative matters.
It emerged, on Sunday, the officers handling the case including Police Lieutenant Colonel Manapong have been transferred to other duties with the lead officer now working at Phaya Thai police station.
In his statement on the matter, the police chief said the case was properly a matter for the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) as it involved illegal activities outside the state.
Contrary to fears expressed by the firebrand MP on Monday, General Damrongsak, insisted that work on the case had not been stalled because of the sudden removal of the officers concerned.
Rome said he was encouraged initially by police action on this case and now fears that the case will stall as officers are transferred
On Monday, Mr Rangsiman expressed his concern and puzzlement with the situation and pointed out that in this case up to the weekend, he had believed that the police had acted somewhat properly in their pursuit of a possible investigation into the senator.
He expressed concern that the case may be stalled because of the removal of the prosecuting officers.
He also pointed out that the ramifications of a situation if criminal charges were to be brought against a sitting senator were enormous.
It would be heightened because of his important position in society and the consequent result that the court may impose harsher punishment of between two to three times that of a normal person.
Notwithstanding this, if the charges were linked to drug trafficking and laundering the proceeds of such activities, then the sentence could be the death penalty which Thai courts have consistently handed down to kingpins involved in money laundering drug proceeds.
In nearly all cases, these are eventually reduced to terms of life imprisonment.
Transfer of investigators confirmed on Sunday
The transfer of officers involved in the case was confirmed on Sunday night by Police Major General Khomsit Rangsai, the commander of Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) Division 3.
The upper house politician, in any event, legally could not have been arrested when Mr Rangsiman Rome first made his allegations as the Senate was sitting until February 28th but on Monday, the MP questioned why even a summons from the police as a witness in the case had not been issued to the senator.
Police Major General Khomsit, on Sunday, indicated that this may follow but suggested that there was a need to translate over 1,000 pages of documents into Thai first although he suggested that the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) was anxious to pursue further enquiries.
A legal source linked with the senator on Monday appeared to suggest that no such questioning would follow involving his client as he was not involved in the matter.
He expressed confidence that the senator would win his defamation action against Mr Rangsiman for his activities.
Rangsiman Rome staged a protest on Monday outside the offices of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) calling for more action and answers on the case
On Monday, Mr Rangsiman Rome staged a protest with visual posters at the office of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) as he demanded stronger action to get to the bottom of the alleged involvement of the senator which led police to seek a warrant for his arrest in the first place.
He noted that it was 162 days since the warrant was issued by the Criminal Court and then rescinded within hours by court officials.
He asked who had intervened to bring this about?
The MP said, as of now, there has been no further progress on the matter.
He suggested that the reports relating to foreign language translations refer to the financial network and company structure of affairs linked to Mr Tun Min Latt and also conversations between the key players in the conspiracy.
He also revealed that there was a case before the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) concerning the matter which, as far as he knew, was also stalled.
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About the Author
James Morris and Son Nguyen
James Morris is a pename for an international writer based in Bangkok who works on various international news media. He is a sub editor with the Thai Examiner news website since it began in 2015. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.