Bail allowed for ex-sergeant who exposed military corruption

A military court has granted 50,000 baht bail for a former army sergeant who publicly exposed corruption within his division and suffered retaliation.

(Left) Narongchai during his trial procedure on 23 June.

On 22 June, a military court granted 50,000 baht bail for Sgt.Narongchai Intharakavi, formerly assigned to the Army Ordnance Materiel Rebuild Centre, who exposed corruption in the Centre.

Narongchai is now charged with absence without leave after he deserted his post for 15 days in March. On the morning of 22 June, he went to the Ordnance Centre in Pathum Thani Province to hear the charge. He was then taken to the military prison in Nakhon Pathom Province for pre-trial detention.

Once in prison, an appeal for bail was made to the military court in Bangkok. The court initially approved his detention, for the reason that the result of his criminal fingerprint registration was still pending. The court later allowed bail after Narongchai’s lawyer argued that the fingerprint process had been completed and there is no reason to think he would try to flee.

Later the same day, Narongchai was released. He expressed his gratitude to the people who supported him in terms of finance and goodwill.

“I must thank you very much for supporting me. If no one supported me, I would not have the money for bail, and I would not have the money to make a living and fight the case today and in future days where I do not know when the end will be.”

Military reform needed as sergeant faces retaliation for exposing corruption

Narongchai was fired from his post around a week before the trial started. The order overrules Narongchai’s March appeal to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) for protection.

This has been a long, costly struggle.

  • On 5 Sep 2019 Narongchai filed a petition with the Ombudsman about corruption.
  • In Sep 2019 Narongchai came into conflict with his superior over the petition, according to Narongchai and the Army.
  • In Oct 2019 the division set up a committee to investigate. Narongchai was found guilty for violating the military code and sentenced to serve a prison term from 18 to 24 March.
  • On 24 Feb 2020 Narongchai filed an appeal with the Royal Thai Army (RTA) via Maj Gen Burin Thongprapai, Director of the Army's Judge Advocate General's Office and Col Winthai Suwaree, an Army spokesperson.
  • On 25 Feb 2020 a committee was established to investigate the document leak, not the corruption.
  • On 12 Mar 2020 Narongchai appealed against the corruption and his prison sentence through a direct complaints channel set up by RTA commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong.
  • On 13 Mar 2020 Narongchai asked his superior for forgiveness. He withdrew his appeal through the RTA direct complaints channel as he thought it would end the problem. However, his punishment remained as a result from the investigation committee decision. The event was recorded on video by other soldiers in the room.
  • On 16 Mar 2020 Narongchai contacted the Ombudsman to withdraw his appeal but later decided not to.
  • On 17 Mar 2020 Narongchai went back to work and found his prison sentence still stood. He then filed a petition with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) asking for protection. This attempt was unsuccessful as of 11 June 2020.
  • On 18 Mar 2020 Narongchai fled from his post.
  • On 19 Mar 2020 Narongchai appealed again via the RTA direct complaints channel over his prison sentence. Another appeal was filed on 14 April.
  • On 24 Apr Narongchai submitted evidence to Veera Somkwamkid, Secretary-General of the People’s Anti-Corruption Network, a watchdog NGO.
  • On 27 Apr Narongchai and Veera submitted an appeal to the House Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights with evidence of the alleged corruption comprising fake travel permission and project approval documents with self-written invoices.
  • On 27 May the House Committee summoned the Army Commander to address Narongchai’s appeal. The Commander sent Lt Gen Sornchai Kanjanasoot, head of the Royal Thai Army Ordnance Department in his stead. The Committee later announced that Lt Gen Sornchai could not address nor answer questions on the issue.
  • On 28 May a video clip taken on 13 May 2019 was leaked on the internet. In the video, the superior says that even though he had forgiven Narongchai and given him another chance, if he kept on doing this, his military career would go nowhere. Narongchai claimed that there were words which he considered as a threat which are not shown in the video clip.
  • On 30 May It was widely reported that the RTA Commander had established a investigation committee in the Narongchai case and found that the allegations of corruption are well-grounded. The case would be submitted to the NACC after the RTA Commander approved. The committee did not find the allegations of threats and harassment grounded. Narongchai would be put on trial for deserting his post. 
Source: 
prachatai.com/journal/2020/06/88271