Thailand’s police chief dismissed

BBC News
Last Updated: Monday, 5 February 2007, 13:54 GMT

File photo of General Kowit Watana


Thailand’s national police chief has been sacked by the military-installed government, officials say.

Gen Kowit Watana’s dismissal follows government and
military criticism over the police inquiry into the New Year’s Eve
bombings in Bangkok.

He is also seen as loyal to Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister who was ousted in a coup in September.

A government spokesman said Gen Kowit had been transferred to an inactive post in the prime minister’s office.

Prime Minister Gen Surayud Chulanont has appointed Gen
Seripisut Temiyawes, an adviser to the police office, as acting police
chief, the spokesman confirmed.

Loyalty questioned

The BBC’s Bangkok correspondent says the army-appointed
government is feeling increasingly embattled over its failure to
produce hard evidence of corruption against the former prime minister.

Opinion polls show the government’s approval rating has fallen to below 50%, while the exiled Mr Thaksin’s popularity is rising.

That may explain why the government felt unable to keep
in office a police chief whose loyalty was always in doubt, our
correspondent says.

The New Year’s Eve bomb attacks in Bangkok killed three people and wounded about 40 others.

The authorities had blamed factions loyal to Mr Thaksin
– such as disaffected soldiers and police – for the bombings. The claim
was angrily denied by the former prime minister.

Thai investigators on Friday revealed they had a suspect
in the bomb attacks, whom they believe has links to the Muslim
insurgency in the country’s south.



VOICE OF AMERICA

Thailand’s Police Chief Fired, as Government Popularity Slips


05 February 2007

 

Corben report – Download 304k
audio clip


Listen to Corben report
audio clip

Thai prime minister Surayud Chulanont has
fired the Thai police chief after he failed to make progress in the
investigation of bomb attacks in the capital Bangkok. As Ron Corben
reports from Bangkok, new polls show declining support for the
military-backed government.

Thai police chief Gen. Kowit Watana (File)
Thai police chief Gen. Kowit Watana (File)

The
dismissal of Thai Police Chief General Kowit Wattana follows heavy
criticism of investigations into the bombings in Bangkok on New Year’s
Eve that left three people dead and dozens wounded.

Last month, police arrested 19 people, but they were all later
released without charge. A grenade attack then hit a newspaper office
and a hotel, raising further doubts of the police’s ability to secure
the capital.

Kowit was police chief to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a September coup.

Chulalongkorn University Economics Professor Somphob Manarangsan believes the dismissal raises hopes of reform.

“The police department has been highly criticized by the public even
before the coup d’etat. There is going to be some change in the better
direction, it will be an opportunity for the restructuring and reform,”
he said.

A Thai government spokesman said Police General Seriphisut Temiyawej
is the acting police chief. He has a clean reputation. As crime
suppression chief in the 1990’s, he faced several death threats due to
his investigations of corruption. Somphob believes Seriphisut is a good
choice.

“Police General Seriphisut is quite a liberal and progressive
person when we learn from his past experience,” he said. “I think he
will act to take some action to make some changes to this very
important department.”

Public opinion polls indicate the military government appears to be losing public support.

Monthly opinion surveys by Bangkok’s Assumption University show that
Prime Minister Surayud’s popularity has fallen from 71 percent in
November, to 48 percent in January. At the same time, deposed prime
minister Thaksin gained support, rising from 16 percent to 22 percent,
although a majority of respondents believe he should stay out of
politics.

The survey indicates Thais fear the current government is too busy
grappling with abuses of power by the previous government, and not
focusing enough on improving farmers’ incomes, and ensuring public
safety.

The Washington Post

washingtonpost.com

Thai Premier Dismisses Police Chief

By RUNGRAWEE C. PINYORAT

The Associated Press
Monday, February 5, 2007; 10:04 AM

BANGKOK, Thailand — Thailand’s
military-installed prime minister on Monday dismissed the national
police chief, who has been criticized for failing to solve a series of
bomb explosions in the capital on New Year’s Eve.

Prime Minister
Surayud Chulanont ordered that police chief Gen. Kowit Watana be
transferred to an inactive post in the prime minister’s office,
government spokesman Yongyuth Maiyalarb said.A veteran police officer with a reputation for incorruptibility was appointed in his place.

Yongyuth
said that the decision to replace Kowot was made jointly by Surayud and
the chief of the military’s Council for National Security that is the
power behind the interim government.

The council, led by army commander Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, comprises the leadingmilitary officers who
appointed Surayud after staging a bloodless coup in September. They
ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who had been accused
of corruption and abuse of power, and is now in exile abroad.

Kowit,
although a council member, had been seen by some of his colleagues as a
loyalist to Thaksin, who appointed him. He has also been criticized by
the government and military for failing to make progress in solving the
Dec. 31 bombings in Bangkok that killed three people and wounded about
40.

Government and military figures have repeatedly said they
believe that Thaksin’s supporters were behind the bombings, but police
have been reluctant to endorse the theory.

Among the other
suspects in the bombings are Islamic militants, who have been staging
an insurgency in the country’s southernmost provinces.

Kowit’s
dismissal came amid indications that the interim government’s
popularity has been plunging, as it is criticized for lacking the
ability to govern the country and failing to sustain the excuses it
gave for staging the coup.

The failure to solve the Dec. 31 bombing has been widely seen as undermining public confidence.

Police
Gen. Seriphisut Temiyawej, the department’s inspector-general, was
appointed acting police chief, Yongyuth said. Seriphisut was critical
of the police force under Kowit, noting the practice of cronyism, lack
of direction and its failure to solve cases such as the New Year’s
bombings. He publicly criticized Kowit last year over an investigation
into illegal gambling dens.

Thailand, meanwhile, is expected to
hold its first referendum on a new constitution in September, one of
the drafters of the document said.

The nationwide referendum is
tentatively scheduled for Sept. 3, said Somkit Lertphaithun, a member
of the official constitution drafting committee. It will be followed
shortly afterward by an election.

After ousting Thaksin, coup leaders promised an election by October 2007.

The
coup leaders annulled the 1997 constitution, saying they planned to
forge a new one to eliminate loopholes that allowed Thaksin to gather
great power and erode Thailand’s democratic institutions.

The new
constitution would be the 17th since Thailand abolished its absolute
monarchy in 1932. The earlier charters were each thrown out after the
numerous coups that have punctuated the country’s modern history.


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