Thai police raid top cop's home over 'Betflix'

By AFP   September 25, 2023 | 03:29 pm PT
Thai police raid top cop's home over 'Betflix'
Thailand's deputy national police chief Surachate ‘Big Joke’ Hakparn speaks during a news conference at his agency’s Crime Suppression Division in the capital Bangkok on June 30, 2023. Photo by AFP
Thai police swooped on the home of one of the kingdom's most high-profile officers on Monday as part of a series of raids targeting an illegal online gambling network dubbed "Betflix".

Most forms of betting are illegal in Thailand, with authorities striving recently to shut down the illicit gambling sites, often foreign-owned, that have sprung up.

A sprawling investigation across six provinces saw SWAT teams raid some 30 locations, including Deputy National Police Chief Surachate Hakparn's house in central Bangkok.

Surachate, well-known in Thailand for his regular appearances in the media giving updates on investigations, denied any involvement in the alleged gambling ring.

"I'm not worried at all, because I'm not involved in this and I can answer any question," he told reporters outside his home while the raid was underway.

Police Maj. Gen. Trairong Phiwpan said the raids stemmed from a probe into a gambling website called "Betflix" and 12 subsidiary sites.

Investigators have issued 23 arrest warrants, he said, including eight for police officers, though Surachate said he was not among them.

Officers conducting the raid said they were unaware whose house it was.

Known by the nickname "Big Joke" — for his seniority, not his sense of humor — Surachate insisted that the search warrant for his home was "irregular" and hinted at rivalries within the force.

"Today, I see this as nothing more than internal politics within the police," he said.

The raid comes only a few days before the selection of a new police chief, with Surachate touted as a possible candidate.

The long-serving officer — nicknamed "the cat with nine lives" — has been linked to powerful figures in the previous government.

He was appointed by ex-deputy prime minister Prawit Wongsuwan as chief of the Immigration Bureau in September 2018.

He disappeared in 2019 over unclear reasons, before then-prime minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha made him a special adviser on strategy to police in 2021.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who took office last month, told reporters he was monitoring the situation.

"There may be the need to set up an independent investigation committee, because this is a big problem," he said. "It affects the morale and public impression toward the police."

Thai police have long been dogged by allegations of endemic corruption.

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