The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) is undergoing radical changes following the recent appointment of Police General Chatchawal Suksomjit as its new Director General. In this exclusive interview, the police chief outlines his plans for the DSI and how it will target some of the country’s most difficult and complicated criminal cases,
including those involving foreigners
By Maxmilian Wechsler
“THE changes are necessary to make the DSI a strong, proactive civilian law enforcement agency on a par with international organizations like the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Australian Federal Police,” said Pol Gen Chatchawal. “Enhancing the DSI’s capability should lead to the arrests of big-time criminals in Thailand.”
Many of his remarks were directed at foreign lawbreakers, especially these involved in organized crimes like passport fraud and financial crimes. The latter include ‘boiler rooms,’ or call centers, selling questionable investments using high pressure tactics.
The appointment of the new DSI chief has been welcomed by his peers and colleagues, who readily acknowledge his experience in leading criminal investigations and his work on the suppression of human trafficking.
The DSI headquarters is on Chaeng Wattana Road in Bangkok. Here and at Regional Operation Centers in ten regions of Thailand, the DSI employs about 1,200 men and women. The locations of these centers are: Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Chonburi, Nakhon Ratchasima, Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai, Phitsanulok, Nakhon Pathom, Surat Thani, Songkhla and Pattani.
DSI staff consists of highly qualified officers chosen from police, customs and revenue departments, as well as prosecutors, accountants, lawyers and public servants from a variety of other government agencies.
The 11th floor of the DSI HQ in Bangkok, where Pol Gen Chatchawal has his office, was a beehive of activity on the day of our interview. Since taking on the job he’s been kept very busy with the fine points of the DSI’s work. He explained that this was not to make a show of changing everything to demonstrate his authority, but because of the intensive streamlining process now going on. This includes consolidating almost 20 departments at the headquarters and ten Regional Operation Centers.
Asked how it felt to wear a suit instead of a police officer’s uniform, he looked surprised and a bit amused, and then laughed. The DSI spokesperson and foreign relations officer also laughed, contributing to a relaxed atmosphere that prevailed during the one-hour interview.
Pol Gen Chatchawal then expanded on his vision for the DSI and his desire to bring it into compliance with international law enforcement standards. “By ministerial regulation, our mission is to prevent, suppress, and control serious crimes which affect the economy, society, security and safety of Thailand and its citizens, and also foreigners, in the country. We will enforce the laws of the land equitably.
“We do this by monitoring and investigating criminal activities and bringing criminals to trial. It means tackling corruption and transnational organized crime as well.”
Under the Special Case Investigation Act, the DSI is empowered to conduct investigations into “special cases,” defined as complicated criminal cases committed by influential persons or organized criminal groups. This includes crimes perpetrated by those who possess and abuse knowledge of sophisticated technology in their criminal conduct and that require innovative forms of investigation.
“Our mandate is to dismantle organized crime syndicates that cause serious harm to public order, morale, national security, international relations or the country’s economy,” said Pol Gen Chatchawal.
He admitted that he was a little surprised when appointed to lead the DSI. “I must confess that I never imagined that this day would come. I have always regarded the DSI with great interest because of its mission, and I believe the knowledge and experience I gained during my police career makes me suitable and well prepared to lead the agency.
“In the past the DSI investigated some cases and issues that really didn’t ‘belong’ to it,” he added. “For example, some cases that involve political figures, and this caused some resentment and bitterness against the DSI from the public.
“Also in the past, sometimes the standard was low in comparison with well-known foreign law enforcement agencies. This must change. I will concentrate on criminal cases within the scope of DSI’s authority according to the DSI Special Case Act.”
This encompasses 36 types of crimes, including those listed under the Foreign Exchange Control, Government Procurement Fraud, Consumer Protection, Trademark, Currency, Bank of Thailand, Public Company, Anti Money Laundering, Copyright, Board of Investment, Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality, Patent, Security and Exchange Commission, Revenue Code, Customs, Liquor and Tobacco, and Anti-Trafficking in Persons acts.
Asked if there will be an influx of foreign criminals following Thailand’s integration into the ASEAN Economic Community next year, he said: “We are well prepared and on the lookout for foreigners who wish to come here to commit crimes or who commit offences in their home countries and then come here.
“We recently formed an ASEAN centre which is under the Bureau of Foreign Affairs and Transnational Crime,” he added.
“We also coordinate with other Thai law enforcement agencies and concerned authorities such as the RTP and
Anti-Money Laundering Office. Moreover, we continue to cooperate with the law enforcement agencies of many countries, including Australia, the United States, People’s Republic of China, Spain, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Japan and all ASEAN nations.”
He added, however, that the role of the ten Regional Operation Centers will to put emphasis on gathering information and intelligence, which includes surveillance. After completing preliminary investigations, they will report their findings to headquarters in Bangkok.
“For example, in a case concerning tax evasion, if they find there’s something shady going on then they will send the report to the headquarters to decide whether to accept it as a special case or not. If it is accepted, the case will be assigned to the DSI’s Tax Bureau to conduct a full investigation.”
The Pol Gen said that some of the cases referred to DSI might not fall under its mandate. These would be forwarded to the RTP or other relevant agencies.
“We will concentrate on investigating all criminal activities listed under the DSI Act. However, we will also put a lot of emphasis on some crimes not specifically listed. For example, forest encroachment, because this has a big effect on the wellbeing of society and on national security. We will also put a lot of emphasis, resources and effort into combating human trafficking. This is a very important issue for us,” Pol Gen Chatchawal stressed. “The suppression of human trafficking violations is an enormous task but we will do our best to deal with this problem. ‘Influential persons’ will be increasingly targeted.”
Pol Gen Chatchawal said that another crime on his priority list is government procurement fraud, which involves the bidding processes for jobs being rigged in favour of certain companies.
“As for political cases, we should keep a distance from these. We don’t want the DSI to be accused of taking sides as has happened in recent years. We won’t look at which political affiliation or group the suspect belongs to but what kind of crime is committed. If the case affects national security it will be investigated by the DSI, but overall my policy is to not take sides. We will not consider the person but the crime,” Pol Gen Chatchawal stressed.
Politicizing the DSI further damaged the reputation of the DSI. Pre-occupation with those cases in the past meant a shortage of staff for other tasks.
High priority crimes
“Regarding transnational crimes, our main focus will be to combat terrorism, which is a very serious crime affecting the public. We will combat this type of crime with colleagues from foreign law enforcement agencies. We will also concentrate on economic crimes and human trafficking, both areas where cooperation with foreign law enforcement agencies is also vital.
“Another major focus is passport fraud because it is related to crimes like human trafficking and terrorism.
“Economic crimes, including intellectual property violations are also very important because they affect the financial security of Thailand. We are cooperating with the Customs Department as well as the Department of Intellectual Property under the Ministry of Commerce to fight violations.
“We are cooperating and coordinating with many sectors and organizations to suppress the car fraud (also known as the grey car market). As for financial crimes, we cooperate with the Securities and Exchange Commission and our foreign counterparts in cases involving boiler rooms and other financial frauds committed by foreigners based in Thailand.
“I would like to stress that economic crimes committed by foreigners in Thailand are on my priority list as well.”
Help for foreigners
Foreigners based in Thailand are welcome to contact the DSI to lodge a request for assistance by phone, in person or by email, especially when they have been unable to receive assistance from other law enforcement organizations.
“We will help anyone who calls our call centre or comes to us in person, whether they are Thais or foreigners,” said Pol Gen Chatchawal. “We are willing to help foreigners not only in what are regarded as special cases but also for routine issues. The complaint centre is located on the ground floor of the DSI building in Bangkok where we also provide legal assistance. The call centre number is 1202 and the website is www.dsi.go.th.”
“Our officers will screen the complaint and if we can help then we will act immediately. If it is not our responsibility then we can refer the matter to the relevant agencies and we will monitor and follow up the situation.”
Complaints made at regional offices will be forwarded to the headquarters as well.
AFTER attending the Royal Police Cadet Academy in Nakhon Pathom for four years, Chatchawal Suksomjit started his career at the Royal Thai Police (RTP) in 1977 and held many positions there since. A reputation for excellence brought him the titles of Deputy Commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau, Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, Commissioner of the Immigration Bureau, and finally Deputy Commissioner General of the RTP before being appointed Director-General of the DSI.
He has also played a key role in drafting and improving laws designed to protect society’s most vulnerable citizens, including the Anti-Trafficking Persons Act B.E. 2551 (2008). He served as Director of the Children, Women and Family Protection and Anti-Human Trafficking Center of the RTP and on the Board of Improvement of the Criminal Procedure Code, Office of the Council of State (Krisdika). Pol Gen Chatchawal is the sixth Director General of the DSI.