Home Thailand Crime

Ex-No. 2 Cop Faces Criminal Charges Over Leaked ‘Big Joke’ Shooting Phone Call

Wirachai Songmetta Thai Police Deputy Commissioner
Former deputy national police chief Wirachai Songmetta.

A Royal Thai Police committee has recommended prosecutors file criminal charges against the country’s former No. 2 cop for leaking a recording of a phone call with Thailand’s national police chief warning him to stay away from the shooting of a controversial former immigration chief.

A panel set up in January to investigate Pol. Maj. Gen. Wirachai Songmetta determined that the former deputy police chief was guilty of illegally recording his early January conversation with Pol. Gen. Chakthip Chaijinda and leaking the recording to the press. On Friday it was revealed the case has been referred to the Office of the Attorney General’s Office of Legal Affairs and Litigation for prosecution.

If convicted, Wirachai – who ranks 40th on this year’s Forbes List of Thailand’s 50 richest people with a family net worth of US$585 million – faces up to five years in prison and a fine of 200,000 baht.

The conversation in question revolved around former rising police star Pol. Lt. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, the self-aggrandizing former head of the Immigration Bureau better known by his nickname, “Big Joke”, who garnered a long list of enemies by claiming credit and hogging the media spotlight for operations under him, and even those he had no hand it.

On Jan. 6 two gunmen opened fire on Big Joke’s white Lexus outside a massage parlor on Surawong Road in Bangkok’s Silom area. Surachate wasn’t in the car and was unhurt. No one has ever been arrested for the failed assassination attempt.

The case attracted immense media attention and Wirachai put himself front-and-center, even though the case technically was assigned to Bangkok’s Metropolitan Police Division. On Jan. 8, the two top cops spoke by telephone, with Chakthip telling his deputy to “stay away” from the case.

“The metro police are taking care of the case. Don’t be drawn by their plot. It’s noticeable, do you understand?,” Chakthip was heard saying on the recording, which police confirmed was authentic.

“So it means I don’t have to get involved in this, sir?” Wirachai asked.

“You don’t have to hold news conferences here and there. There’s nothing about this case. I thought you’re discerning enough not to let them push their personal agenda into this,” the police chief said, referring to Surachate, who was drumming up stories that his bosses tried to have him killed.

Wirachai was suspended after the recording came out. Hakparn took leave to travel to India to become a monk and, upon his return, was transferred to an inactive post at the police operations center and has not made the news since April.