World Bulletin/News Desk
Thailand’s crown prince has ordered a royally granted surname held by suspects in the country’s largest ever corruption scandal be erased from registration, with anyone bearing the name reverting to their prior surname.
The decree regarding the Akkharaphongpricha name was delivered by Prince Vajiralongkorn’s private secretary to the interior minister and will be enforced Monday, Thai media reported Saturday, citing officials at the ministry.
Three suspects bearing the surname were taken into police custody Wednesday for their alleged involvement in a corruption scandal that has seen 14 others arrested. Among them is the second most powerful police officer in the country General Pongpat Chayapan -- who also happens to be the uncle of the prince’s wife.
Akkharaphongpricha is the family name given by the prince to his current wife -- Princess Srirasmi -- with whom he has a 9-year-old son, according to information published Saturday in Singaporean newspaper Straits Times.
Traditionally, honorific names are granted to families with members who have loyally served the crown.
Among the 17 arrested, seven police officers stand accused of the well-known practice of extorting bribes in exchange for promotions, of collecting bribes from oil smugglers and underground casino owners and of lese-majeste -- offenses against the Thai royal family.
While details remain unknown, the Bangkok Post reported that some of the police and civilian suspects -- including those surnamed Akkharaphongpricha -- have “cited the monarchy to obtain benefits and money from others.”
Despite institutionalized corruption in Thailand’s police force being well-known, an officer as high-ranking as Pongpat -- who has since been relieved of his duties as chief of the Central Investigation Bureau -- has never been arrested.
After his arrest Monday, police seized assets amounting to $311 million dollars from several houses belonging to the officer, including thousands of precious Buddhist images and amulets, 114 land titles, large quantities of jewelry, millions in cash and enough luxury wood to fill up 60 lorries.
While Thailand’s comprehensive lese-majeste law renders most issues pertaining to the royal family taboo, police have not clearly expounded the link between the corruption ring and the accusation, under which offenders can face jail sentences of three to 15 years.
Anxiety over the succession of 86-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej has been mounting recently as the health of the monarch -- currently hospitalized -- has been declining. His only son, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, has legal and traditional rights to the throne but is far less popular than his father, who is revered as a unifying figure and considered almost a semi-god.
Last Mod: 30 Kasım 2014, 00:21