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Deputy chief of Thailand's national police surrenders for arrest on money laundering charge

BANGKOK (AP) — A deputy chief of Thailand’s national police force involved in many high-profile cases turned himself in to fellow officers on Tuesday after a court issued a warrant for his arrest on money laundering charges.

Police Gen. Surachate Hakparn had recently been suspended from his duties due to his involvement in infighting among the department’s top ranks.

Thai media reported that the Bangkok Criminal Court approved an arrest warrant for Surachate on money laundering charges earlier Tuesday. Public broadcaster Thai PBS and Thai Rath, the country’s largest circulation newspaper, reported that the court issued the warrant because Surachate failed to report for questioning after three summonses had been issued for him.

Surachate went to Bangkok’s Taopoon neighborhood police station Tuesday evening to hear the charges against him, and after several hours emerged to tell reporters he had come to comply with the warrant and would let due process take its course.

“I’m not worried,” he commented as he jostled his way through a scrum of reporters before getting into a waiting car. He said he had been released on bail but did not specify the amount.

The arrest occurred less than two weeks after Surachate was suspended at the same time as national police chief Torsak Sukvimol. Their suspensions followed a very public feud surrounding accusations that Surachate had involvement in an illegal online gambling operation. Allegations against Surachate and his counter-allegations appeared to be signs of a serious conflict within the highest echelons of the police department.

Surachate’s residence in Bangkok was raided in September last year in an operation police said was related to an illegal online gambling network. Eight police officers who were Surachate’s subordinates were arrested on the day of the raid in connection with the case.

At the time, the position of the chief of the national police was about to be filled and Surachate had been one of the frontrunners. Torsak was appointed to the position just days late.

Thailand’s national police force has a tradition of fierce internal politicking, as well as a longstanding reputation for corruption at all levels.

Police appeared to ramp up their investigation of abuse of power, bribery and money laundering allegations against Surachate last month, and openly accused him of being connected with online gambling operators.

Surachate responded by launching a press campaign, aided by lawyers, in which they maintained his innocence, claimed foul play to discredit him and accused other top-ranking police officers of taking money from online gambling networks.

As the spat escalated, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, whose office supervises the national police department, signed an order to suspend both Surachate and Torsak and to set up a special committee to investigate the various allegations.

Surachate was a rising star after being appointed in 2018 to the Police Immigration Bureaube, and came well known for his frequent media appearances, but he was suddenly removed from his post and disappeared temporarily from public view in 2019.

He returned to the national police agency in 2021 when then-Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha appointed him as an adviser to the police chief, and he then started climbing the ranks again.