'Billions' at Thai CIB chief's home

Police Lieutenant General Pongpat Chayaphan, commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau leaves the Criminal Court in Bangkok November 24, 2014.

THAILAND - Police have found billions of baht worth of assets at the home of Central Investigation Bureau commander Lt-General Pongpat Chayaphan.

Yesterday's search reportedly turned up cash in both Thai and US banknotes amounting to billions of baht, as well as gold bars, rare Buddha images and numerous amulets along with a large number of land title deeds.

Pongpat and six other policemen were being detained at seven metropolitan police stations as of last night, after they were all taken to Bangkok-based military barracks at around 1am yesterday for questioning.

Royal Thai Police spokesman Lt-General Prawut Thawornsiri said earlier that Pongpat and the six others had confessed to their crimes. Three civilians accused of similar crimes were on the run and were being pursued by police, he said.

The cases would be clarified further and in greater detail at a press conference, said Prawut, who is also an assistant national police chief.

Senior police have rarely been charged with lese majeste.

Three civilians accused of similar crimes were on the run, he said.

As for the death of Pol Colonel Akkharawut Limrat, Prawut said a certificate issued by coroners on Friday said he suffered a broken spine at chest level, which was caused by a fall. Akkharawut, transferred from a top position along with Pongpat, had attempted suicide on three occasions after his transfer, he said.

Akkharawut was cooperative and gave useful information to police, he said.

"After giving his statements, he jumped off a building to kill himself out of distress and fear for prosecution, he said, adding that the colonel left a suicide note. Pongpat, his deputy Maj-General Kowit Wongrungroj and Akkharawut were transferred to inactive posts in an urgent transfer order late on November 11.

A police notice on Friday details their alleged crimes and lists eight more people - five police and the three civilians. Akkharawut had not been charged with any offence. His death was made known via social media posts yesterday.

Crime Suppression Division commander Chaithat Bunkham was transferred on November 13 but he was not on the notice, which comprises 10 people in total.

Another transfer order issued on November 14 resulted in a police commander being assigned to replace Colonel Watcharaphol Thongluan, commander of the CSD's Subdivision 5. Watcharaphol is also not on the notice.

Others on the list were Marine Police commander Maj-General Bunsueb Phrai-thuen, Samut Sakhon immigration chief Colonel Kowit Muangnual, Snr Sgt Major Surasak Jan-ngoa and Snr Sgt Major Chattrin Laothong.