Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra - who escaped criminal punishment in Thailand by fleeing the country - may be stripped of his lieutenant colonel police rank, said the chairman of a police committee that looks into officers' ranks.
General Chaiya Siri-ampunkul said his committee was finalising details and preparing documents in Thaksin's case and he expected to forward the case file to the police commissioner within a few days.
He revealed that according to police regulations, seven offences could lead to an officer being stripped of rank and Thaksin fell into one of them.
"Based on documents from many government agencies, the committee has found that Pol Lt-Colonel Thaksin is a fugitive of many criminal penalties. So it falls into a category of our regulations to take away a police rank," Chaiya said.
Saying the case details would be submitted to national police chief General Somyot Pumpunmuang, he declined to reveal further information. Somyot will hold a press conference on the matter, he said.
Thaksin would officially lose the rank if the recommendation were to be royally approved, he said.
Chaiya insisted that all the procedures had been followed by his committee and the concerned agencies.
"It is a sensitive issue and the committee worked in accordance with rules and laws," he said.
Meanwhile, Somyot guaranteed that no personal feelings were involved when deciding whether to strip Thaksin of his rank.
On August 7, 2014, the Office of the Ombudsman of Thailand sent an urgent letter to police headquarters asking police to consider stripping Thaksin of the rank in accordance with regulations, as he is wanted under five arrest warrants issued by the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions, Chaiya said.
On May 1, Somyot assigned the committee to consider the request.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said it was initially decided not to take the drastic action of stripping Thaksin's rank because it was thought doing so would back up Thaksin's assertion that the military government was trying to intimidate him. The government had hoped he would curtail his actions but he did not, Prayut said.
Prayut added that the Thaksin problem had reached a level where the PM would not stop officials if they decided to remove the rank.
"I should not make all the decisions. If Thaksin did something wrong that is entitled to that punishment, the officials could forward the case to me," the premier said.
The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday revoked two of Thaksin's passports on the grounds that his recent interview with a foreign media organisation was a danger to national security. The decision followed security authorities' alert that the interview will have an impact on security, and the Kingdom's reputation and integrity.
Thaksin may face the lese majeste charge over what he said in the interview.
Prayut said that the junta had no involvement in the decision to cancel Thaksin's passports.
The move to gather evidence to see if Thaksin's remarks insulted the monarch was done after the authorities received complaints about his comments, he said.
"The National Council for Peace and Order did not get involved in the passports matter. Concerning the reports that Thaksin could be charged with lese majeste, we acted after receiving complaints about the interview," Prayut said. The premier insisted that Thaksin had never contacted him. "Even if Thaksin approaches me, there would be no negotiation because I am a state official. Everything has to proceed according to the justice system.
Prayut referred to former foreign minister Surapong Tohvichakchaikul's statement that he would return the passports to Thaksin if he became foreign minister again, saying the public and the justice system would decide if Surapong returns to the post.
Asked if he believed the revocation of the passports will spur the anti-government movement, Prayut said that was Thaksin's decision. He said Thaksin could do whatever he wanted but there would be consequences if he did.
Deputy Defence Minister General Udomdej Sitabutr said he had assigned Lt-General Sarayuth Klinmahom, director of the Army's Judge Advocate Office, to file a complaint with police against Thaksin for allegedly insulting the Army in his interview.
Meanwhile Akanat Prompan, a former Democrat MP, said the government cancelled Thaksin's passports as he allegedly distorted information in the interview.
"It is true that Thaksin is still able to use the passports of other countries, it [revoking his Thai passports] is a symbol for society to see," said Akanat, who is also spokesman of the People's Democratic Reform Committee.
When Surapong was foreign minister, it was strange that Thaksin had a revoked passport returned to him despite being a fugitive, he said.
However he declined to comment on the calls for the government to strip Thaksin's police rank, saying that is up to the government.