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Major General Paween Pongsirin: promoted, special Phuket unit disbanded

Phuket Crimebuster Pulled Off 'Mafia'

Sunday, October 26, 2014
PHUKET: The undercover policeman who busted open Phuket's taxi ''mafia'' and was about to begin investigating the holiday island's jet-ski extortion gangs has been suddenly transferred to a less demanding role in another province.

Major General Paween Pongsirin is the latest in a string of police officers and administrators whose desire to straighten out Phuket's problems appears to have led to them being prematurely ''promoted'' before being able to complete their tasks.

As the leader of a small, hand-picked group of police from off Phuket, the work of Major General Paween and his team this year led to the breakthrough arrests of hundreds of taxi and tuk-tuk drivers in Kata-Karon and Patong.

Charges were also laid against individuals who allegedly sponsored the extortion, intimidation and corrupt activities of the drivers.

Now, with the transfer of the major-general, the undercover team of investigators is to be disbanded.

The shock move comes just as the off-island team were about to launch an investigation into Phuket's jet-ski gangs, who mostly operate from Patong beach.

It is believed the bank books of some people with connections to Phuket's jet-ski operators were about to be examined.

As a result of outstanding work on Phuket, Major General Paween was called earlier this month to another holiday island - Koh Tao - to help sort out the flawed police investigation into the murders of British tourists Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24.

The major general laid murder counts against two Burmese after being told where a victim's telephone had been discarded and on the basis of long interviews with the suspects and DNA evidence.

Major General Paween returned from a brief holiday yesterday to learn that he is being removed from his role overseeing investigations into Phuket taxi drivers and the soon-to-begin probe of jet-ski operators.

It is also not clear who will now oversee the prima facie cases that Major General Paween had established alleging that the managements at several Phuket resorts paid millions of baht to Phuket sunbed operators who said they ''owned'' Phuket's public beaches.

The transfer of Major General Paween and the disbanding of his off-island team of investigators appears to end any hope honest residents and expats on Phuket may have had of eliminating the corruption that still thrives on the holiday island.

Major General Paween was appointed to his special role on Phuket by Lieutenant General Panya Mamen, who was recently promoted from being Commander of Region 8 - which includes Phuket and all southern provinces - to a new role in Bangkok.

His replacement, Major General Decha Budnampeth, has yet to reveal his plan for dealing with the taxi and tuk-tuk ''mafia,'' the jet-ski extortionists and the corruption on Phuket that continues to thrive.

Comments

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Well that was good while it lasted. Just goes to show you how deep it goes...

Posted by rc on October 26, 2014 23:36

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Is anyone surprised?
I don't think so.

Doomsayers are here to stay.

Posted by Tbs on October 27, 2014 00:39

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I am still disappointed, after so many times. Just when you think change is happening, they pull you back in.

Good people just waste their lifetime on Phuket trying to solve its problems.

Posted by Lena on October 27, 2014 01:20

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Indeed, rc. Looks like he got too close to the people who actually run this island.

Ah well, back to the beaches full of sunbeds, restaurants on the sand and jet-ski renters continuing to scam the tourists.

Welcome to Phuket 2015.

Posted by Smithy on October 27, 2014 02:25

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Something sounds wrong here, do I smell a rat?

Posted by Elizabeth on October 27, 2014 03:51

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Very sad.

Posted by GiantFan on October 27, 2014 05:22

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Driving up the beach road at Patong on Saturday, motorbikes and jeeps for rent back in the parking lots and tuk tuks parked just about the full length of the road, Thai boxing pickups adding to the congestion, a leopard doesn't change its spots very easily, I really thought it might change, I was wrong!!!

Posted by coxo on October 27, 2014 07:13

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Sad, sad news...

Why did we feel it was going to happen.

RIP

Posted by Sharp on October 27, 2014 07:24

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Change is impossible even with a military general at the top with a pledge to wipe out corruption.

A sad day for Phuket.

The doomsayers might not be so wrong afrer all.

Posted by Phuket Saviour on October 27, 2014 07:28

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There's sure to be a lot of people breathing a sigh of relief knowing they can go back to their bad old ways and not have to worry about being caught. It looks like a lot of man hours spent improving the Island has gone to waste. A very sad day indeed.

Posted by Rod on October 27, 2014 07:59

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Phuket has chosen it's path and it's a path to self-destruction. For decades such activities could be done away from public view but with the event of social media and mobile phone video cameras, the ugly truth cannot be hidden anymore.

At an ever increasing pace, Phuket alienates the very people it needs to survive - the tourists and expats. Eventually when the arrival numbers crash and businesses start foreclosing left, right and center, it will be interesting to watch everyone running around clueless as to how this all happened.

I have seen the word "Doomsayer" being thrown around this forum quite a bit but in all honesty I don't think it applies to those who have lost hope in Phuket redeeming itself. I would call those people realists, including myself.

Posted by Herbert on October 27, 2014 08:01

Editor Comment:

Change is inevitable, Herbert. The only issue is when. If you believe Phuket will go on as it is at present forever, you are wasting your time. We are seeking ways of implementing that inevitable change. If you have ''lost hope,'' no need to continue adding no value here. Doomsayers remain unwelcome and are just as useless as ever.

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@ Editor

Oh, change is coming all right. Change for the worse. Less tourists, more people laid off, crime increases and as a cherry on the top, biased local police attitudes towards foreign victims of crime. All signs I can see and feel in my neighborhood right now.

If one wishes to point fingers at those who bring doom upon Phuket, they should direct their attention to local authorities.

If you wish to dismiss me as a "Doomsayer, then so be it. However the facts do not support optimism in regard of positive change on Phuket. Believe me, I would love to be proven wrong on this.

Posted by Herbert on October 27, 2014 08:20

Editor Comment:

There are two sides to this, Herbert, the people responsible for creating the problem and the people who want change. By spreading gloom and doom, those who believe change is inevitable have every right to ask you: just whose side are you on? A wiser person with nothing positive to add might simply choose to add nothing and await more doom in their own gloomy private world. Let the rest of us get on with it, please. Doomsayers are volunteer spokespeople for the wrong side.

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No doubt you are controlled by certain ''sponsers'' alan, but isn't it about time you took off your rose tinted glasses and see the reality of matter.You go on and on ad nauseum promoting all the changes that are [not] happening and make yourself look a bigger fool.The doomsayers got it right again! Your continual raving about change is crap and not easy to understand when your head is so far in the sand.

Posted by James on October 27, 2014 09:14

Editor Comment:

Unlike you, we don't have any sponsors in control, James. Why not look at what's in front of you, just this once, on Phuketwan. Note the minimal advertising.
We work seven days a week to change Phuket and Thailand for the better and grow increasingly frustrated at you and others who are regular willing and whining advocates for preservation of the status quo, for corruption, for high taxi fares, for jet-ski scammers and probably for human trafficking as well. Those people who have nothing to add are actually working as unpaid volunteers for Phuket's other ''sponsors''. You have nothing of consequence or value to say, and you do it so well and so consistently. And we all know where your head is.

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All the negative comments, while they may be "justified" do not really help Phuket. If every one keeps talking it down, and just shrugs and says here we go again nothing will change. The changes to the beaches are a start, and yes some of the street things are as they were but these things take time. The Gold Coast was always known for sleezy bars and timeshare touts on every corner. That was 20 years ago. Today it is a different place. Phuket is a magnificent place, and far from doomed, so lets all get positive and help her change. If not leave if you are there, and/or stop talking it down on forums like this, which I come to for discussing the news, not trashing Phuket.

Posted by Davemc60 on October 27, 2014 09:51

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What I would really like to know is: who ordered his transfer? Who in the military got a phone call and was told to stand down this team. And who made that phone call ..... this is almost unbelievable .....

Posted by geoff on October 27, 2014 09:52

Editor Comment:

The military and the police are totally separate and distinct organisations, geoff. With the job on Phuket just begun, it does seem to be a thoughtless move. We expect many people will complain.

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Is it a Koh Tao affect or "the bank books of some people with connections to Phuket's jet-ski operators"?

He was doing fine though. Good luck with next mission Major General Paween Pongsirin.

Posted by Sam on October 27, 2014 09:55

Editor Comment:

You'd have to ask whether Region 8 is genuinely concerned about the safety and security of tourists on Phuket. If the view from the top is that ''problems no longer need fixing on Phuket,'' then the regional chiefs need to explain publicly why that is so. Lieutenant General Panwa believed just the opposite. How odd that his replacement should be so different.

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I do remember reading that the police teams would be changed on a regular basis to ensure that the officers couldn't be 'persuaded' to turn a blind eye. I hope that this is just one of these changes.

Posted by FrankieV on October 27, 2014 10:20

Editor Comment:

As the team was from off Phuket, undue local influence was unlikely.

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Traditionally in Thailand when a senior civil servant make too much fuss to crackdown on influential people or cartels of thugs (Jet-ski, taxi, beach-lounger operators, and so on...), bad boys, local cartels and influential people organize a collect by millions of Baht and find the upper senior civil servants to him in order he is transferred the sooner the better to an inactive position in another province.
We saw it with the 30 million Baht offered to the director of sirinath national Park few month ago.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on October 27, 2014 10:28

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The corrupt and very influential people who benefit from the scams have won yet again, the tourists and the image of Thailand loses yet again. I had hoped the army would have prevented this and followed through on it's initial statement to clean up Phuket but it seems even the party in power has been curbed by the influential people. Who are the influential people ?

Posted by Paul on October 27, 2014 11:15

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How to get rid of a honest crime crusader achieving things on Phuket promote him and move him somewhere obscure all problems fixed now
well be assured the fix is in.

Posted by slickmelb on October 27, 2014 11:25

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@ Whistleblower

I am sure you are right, but are the upper senior civil servants not likely to be asked by the Junta/military "what the hell are you playing at?"

Posted by phonus on October 27, 2014 11:25

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Interesting news on the day that the Jetski interests get a "special" meeting re their interests from the authorities , while every other beach group is TOLD to retrain ... 7 jetskis on Surin yesterday ( where Im lead to believe they are totally banned ) , plus a new para-boat. I dont know why new rules are being set when they are never followed because they are so rarely enforced.

Posted by Chob on October 27, 2014 11:29

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(moderated)

Posted by James on October 27, 2014 12:09

Editor Comment:

you're the first reported sighting of a new species, created by Phuket's peculiar problems: a dingbat doomsayer.

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Ah!... the the tide of change is on the flood once again:
Once upon a time corruption and crime was out of control, Now it seems it is very much IN control..

Posted by david on October 27, 2014 12:25

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would love Phuket to change but let's face its not happening maybe time for you to look at what is in front of you and what anyone can change here!

Posted by Mike on October 27, 2014 12:25

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Major General Paween Pongsirin thanks for your very good work. Now I feel sorry for what coming.
Very good luck in your new position

Posted by sunlover on October 27, 2014 12:55

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The way problems are dealt with in Thailand are similar to the analogy of a crack in a wall.
You see the crack, its ugly, fill up the gap and repaint the wall. The cause of the crack is still there, it's waiting in the background to cause more damage, next year the crack will reappear and also next year it will be refilled and painted. Eventually whoever is responsible to repair and paint will give up knowing that whatever they do, it won't matter, the same will occur next year.

Instead, they need to find the cause of the crack, remediate, so that the crack won't continue, then fill it and paint.
There is no longer a cause nor a crack, it won't appear next year or in a few years. If done properly and monitored, it won't appear again. initially, it may take more effort, time, disruption and money but at least the problem is removed. Unless, of course you are in the crack repair and painting business!

Posted by Manowar on October 27, 2014 13:53

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I won't be looking back. Phuket has had its opportunity to change. Now the orders from high are "we want the money so remove those who want to do good". Sad!

Posted by Logic on October 27, 2014 15:14

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A crushing blow to the hope and change we had all dreamed of... Thailand and it's richest elite are their own worst enemies. The sunchair vendors and all the mafia groups have won once again.

Posted by James Bond on October 27, 2014 18:55

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Who is afraid that he will manage to clean up the mess?

Posted by Retired Roadworker on October 27, 2014 19:40

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I hope the cleaning up Phuket will go on. No corruption, not jetskies, not Taxi Mafia...

Posted by Mali on October 27, 2014 20:12

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The biggest changes happened swiftly and with far less fuss when the army trucks rolled in.

Posted by Chris on October 27, 2014 21:34

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It reads/sounds a Deal is made. More News will folow soon. Principles will become political bargained again.
It all looks likw funeral-arrangements in Marlon Brando style....
The Godfather. PART-Patong

Posted by phuketexpat on October 27, 2014 23:32

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I am so disappointed, very sad with this transfer news of the Major General Paween. He spent so much time trying to improve Phuket, and everything is gone to waste. Gosh..Corruption is taking over..Again? So disappointed indeed.

Posted by SV on October 27, 2014 23:54

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Thank you Deputy Commissioner and your team, I have sent you a private message. Good fortune for the future. Phuket you will change . . . For the worse. See ED change is inevitable, but not always good. The only ones who love change, is a baby with a wet nappy. NO I do not condone corruption, I hate its destruction of all good intentions.

Posted by Graham B on October 28, 2014 05:13


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