Somkid declines promotion in 'interest of the country'

Pol Lt-General Somkid has been accused of involvement in the disappearance of Saudi businessman Mohammad al-Ruwaily 20 years ago. This month, he was promoted as assistant national police chief by the commander of Provincial Police Region 5.

Saudi Arabia immediately expressed its disappointment at the promotion, saying the move was against the Thai National Police Act and could jeopardise relations between the two countries.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva defended the decision to promote Somkid, saying it was in accordance with the law and had nothing to do with the bilateral relations.

Riyadh has downgraded diplomatic relations with Thailand for more than 20 years after the murder of three Saudi diplomats, the case of Ruwaily going missing, and the theft of Saudi jewellery by a Thai worker.

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) filed a case against Somkid and four other police officials before the Criminal Court in January this year.

Saudi diplomats from its Bangkok embassy put a lot of pressure on Abhisit, demanding the government review the promotion, and warned it could worsen bilateral ties. Thai Muslims were worried they could be barred from the hajj pilgrimage because of the poor relations.

Somkid yesterday called a press conference to say he did not want his case to cause trouble to Thai Muslims who were waiting for entry visas from Saudi Arabia for their pilgrimage.

"I made the decision on my own for the benefit of the country, without pressure from any party," he said. "Of course, I still want the promotion in my career but if it could affect the national interest, I should sacrifice.

"I respect the great faith in the religion and the holy mission of all Muslim people and apologise for any inconvenience if my case was linked with visa issuance," he said.

Somkid rejected all allegations of involvement in the disappearance of Ruwaily and questioned the DSI's motive behind the prosecution. He asked Saudi diplomat Nabil Hussein Ashri to refrain from commenting on his case, as it was already in the court.

Shortly after Somkid's press conference on his decision to step down, Cultural Minister Niphit Intharasombat said the Saudi Embassy in Bangkok had issued entry visas to 1,038 Thais for their hajj and would accept 2,000 applications from Thai Muslims per day until all 13,000 of them got visas.

The embassy said earlier that the delay in visa approvals was due to technical problems, and was not related to the diplomatic row and the promotion of Somkid.

The Police Commission needs to convene to reconsider the reshuffle after Somkid declined the promotion. Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said the commission would call a special session tomorrow to amend the police appointment after the departure of Somkid.

Suthep thanked Somkid for his sacrifice and for enabling the government to work with Saudi Arabia. The government might assign him to another position at the same level as assistant national police chief, Suthep said.

Noppadon Somboonsap, a member of the National Police Commission, said Somkid would be compensated for his sacrifice with a position no lower than commander in an operational unit. Other administrative or inactive positions did not fit his qualifications, he said.

From : nation
By : pla
Date : Sep 23, 2010

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