Left: Adm Somprasong Nilsamai, Chief of Royal Thai Navy. Mid: Vice Adm Narupol Kerdnak, commander of the Sattahip Naval Base. Right: Capt Alongkorn Ploddee.

Drunk naval officer at risk of lèse majesté charge

Claiming while drunk that the King of Thailand knew him well, naval officer Capt Alongkorn Ploddee has been dismissed from service effective from 7 January. He has been detained at a military camp in Sattahip, Chonburi, facing four charges and at risk of being charged with lèse majesté in a military court.

On 23 December, a video clip went viral online, showing a drunk man at a restaurant in Sattahip, Chonburi. Patrolling police officers arrived to check that no alcoholic drinks were sold at night at the restaurant, in accordance with a provincial mandate to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The man then intervened.

In his rant, he said that he was a naval officer who had close ties with big shots, claiming that he could remove any police officer from any police station. He also threw glass bottles onto the floor, warning the police to leave.

After public backlash against him, a video clip of a second incident has been posted online, showing similar behaviour. On 16 December at a restaurant near Ekkamai, he shouted claims that he had been the late King’s guard for 18 years and also a favourite of His Majesty. He failed to get free drinks as a waiter and a waitress politely asked him to leave.

“I was the Rama IX’s guard for 18 years. Rama X knows me well, just so you know that you are losers. I can remove you any time. No need to call anyone. I won’t go anywhere. I sit here. I’m the biggest in this country,” he said.

After public criticism and a written inquiry from police, the Royal Thai Navy revealed that the man was Capt Alongkorn Ploddee, the Director of the Real Estate Division at Sattahip Naval Base. A disciplinary committee was set up to investigate on the matter, followed by 14-day disciplinary actions against Capt Alongkorn.

To show responsibility, Adm Somprasong Nilsamai, Chief of Royal Thai Navy, subjected himself to disciplinary measures for 3 days and Vice Adm Narupol Kerdnak, commander of the Sattahip Naval Base, for 7 days from 28 December. Photos showed their shaved heads. They were also expected to walk long distances with a backpack and run with weights.

According to the Guardian, “shaven heads have been associated with trauma, brutality and the loss of individuality or strength.” In the reign of King Rama X, a number of senior officers have undergone head shaving as a form of punishment including Suriyan "Mor Yong" Sucharitpolwong who suspiciously died in custody from a blood infection in 2015.

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who was also mentioned by Capt Alongkorn in one of the video clips ‘Brother Tu’, praised the navy top brass for the self-punishment in a cabinet meeting.

Capt Alongkorn also claimed that he was in the 31st class of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School alongside a powerful police officer, Lt Gen Surachate "Big Joke" Hakparn.

In response, Lt Gen Surachate said that if Capt Alongkorn was really in the 31st class, then it was undeniable that he was one of his friends, but the misconduct was the man’s personal responsibility. After the New Year, the Minister of Defence ordered Capt Alongkorn dismissed for serious misconduct. He was also stripped of the right to all forms of pension.

After the dismissal, he was also denied entry to Sattahip Naval Base. According to the announcement, with the photograph attached, he had at least 12 vehicles including one Isuzu, six Toyota, one Honda, one Porsche, one Ford, and two Mercedes Benz.

The 14th Army Region Court issued an arrest warrant against Capt Alongkorn. He was brought to Sattahip Police Station to acknowledge four charges: insulting of officers in the conduct of their duties, libel of officers carrying out their duties, resisting or obstructing officers in the conduct of their duties, and threatening officers to take illegitimate action.

Sattahip Police Station has set up a committee to consider whether to charge him under the lèse majesté law. According to Section 112, “whoever, defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” So far, there were still no relatives who came to bail him out.

While the cases like these should go through a civilian court considering that the offences occurred when he was off duty and he was stripped of his titles, Daily News reported that all of these charges would be prosecuted in a military court, claiming that he acted while he was still an officer.

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