Thai police question dismissed senior royal palace aide

AP News
Posted: Mar 02, 2017 8:00 AM
Thai police question dismissed senior royal palace aide

BANGKOK (AP) — A former high-ranking police officer dismissed from a senior position in Thailand's royal palace was questioned by police Thursday about land encroachment charges in what is seen as the latest example of Thailand's new king purging aides and other close associates.

Thai media this week published a leaked order from Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha dismissing former police general Jumpol Manmai from his position of Grand Chamberlain of the Royal Household Bureau for using his position for personal gain and having political ambitions that threatened national security.

The order accused Jumpol of carrying out "extremely evil deeds." Considered a long-time loyalist of King Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun since even before he took the throne, Jumpol served as a deputy police commissioner and also chief of the National Intelligence Agency under former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, losing the latter job when Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup.

Flanked by police officers, the 66-year-old Jumpol was brought to the Crime Suppression Bureau for questioning over illegally constructing a residence in a protected forest in Nakhon Ratchasima province. He was later brought before a court in the northeastern province for permission to extend his detention.

The latest purging of Vajiralongkorn's entourage began with divorcing his third wife in 2014 and the subsequent jailing of her parents. Vajiralongkorn took the throne after his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, died last October.

Vajiralongkorn has a history of dramatic breakups: The marriage to his second wife, with whom he has five children, also ended acrimoniously. The breakup was made public by announcements posted near his palace north of Bangkok accusing her of committing adultery with one of his aides and banning them from Thailand.

Just last month, another palace official, former Air Vice Marshal Chitpong Thongkum, who served in the King's bodyguard unit, was stripped of his rank and royal decorations for allegedly stealing royal property and other offenses.

The split of Vajiralongkorn and his third wife, former Princess Srirasmi, was accompanied by a public shaming of a number of her family members. Her parents were given prison sentences for insulting the monarchy after being convicted of misusing his name in a personal dispute.

Vajiralongkorn, 64, faces a challenge in matching the respect accorded to his hard-working father, who reigned for 70 years. He also has to establish a productive relation with the military, which currently runs the country after a 2014 coup.

Earlier this year the military government agreed to amend a draft constitution to meet the king's wishes to extend his authority as a constitutional monarch.