DSI chief Tarit rejects 'chameleon' tag

national October 24, 2012 00:00

By Attayuth Butrsripoom,

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Department of Special Investigation (DSI) director-general Tarit Pengdith, whose stance on many matters has been questioned by the media, told The Nation he is a civil servant trained to work in any situation, with every political camp and government.

Political tensions are rising as cases in connection with the 2010 political strife draw to a close. Tarit, who plays a significant role in the wheels of justice, insisted that he simply has to do his duty, and it is public prosecutors and judges who decide on prosecutions.

Defending himself against claims he is a chameleon who changes his colour for the sake of expediency, Tarit said society sometimes fails to differentiate between officials who act to help politicians and those who simply support the work of the government. 
“What would happen if state agencies choose to take no action? We would certainly be heading toward an upheaval. Civil servants are the government’s tools, but we have never harassed anybody, because the government can only issue orders that are within the bounds of the law,’’ he said.
Rejecting criticism that politicians had used the DSI, Tarit said the department was a law-enforcement agency that must carry out its duty. “When people file a complaint, and we investigate and find that offences are being committed, is this called being a tool? If we do not take action, we will be prosecuted,’’ he said.
In relation to the 2010 violence, there have been more than 200 cases in four categories: terrorism, coercion of government; abuse of state weaponry and fatal attacks against civilians and state officials. In the latter category, cases have not yet been filed with the court because state officials first must file autopsy cross-examination statements with the court in accordance with Article 150 of the criminal code.
Tarit rejected as groundless the Democrats’ allegation of a political motive for his department’s plan to file murder charges against former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva and deputy premier Suthep Thaugsuban for their involvement in the 2010 riots. He said the plan was being carried out not only by his department but also the police and the attorney-general.
“The Office of the Attorney-General is an independent agency; no one can influence it. Prosecutors are not anyone’s rubber stamps.’’
He said there were both people who were happy and not happy with the direction of more than 200 cases the DSI is handling. During the Abhisit government, the court happened to try terrorism cases first, and not cases involving post-mortem examinations, so it appeared at the time that the Abhisit government loved the DSI.
“Ask those who have been taken to court on terrorism charges whether they hate me. Ask [red-shirt leaders] Natthawut [Saikua, now the deputy agriculture minister] and Jatuporn [Prompan]. I must praise them for their etiquette and for not slamming me. 
“Abhisit and Suthep did not like me and strongly criticised me. [But] what can I do? This is my duty. I am a civil servant. I am trained to be able to work in every situation. If I cannot withstand pressure, then I must leave,’’ he said.
Tarit was referring to a court ruling last month that Pan Kamkong, a taxidriver killed on Rajprarob Road on May 15, 2010, was shot by Army personnel supervised by the Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation. After the ruling, Tarit said the case set a precedent for others involving controversial actions by military officers.
“I explained to society that with this ruling we have to take action against those who issued the orders to military officers. This upset the opposition and they slammed me,’’ he said.
Tarit also questioned why the opposition and state officials did not testify in cases involving post-mortem examinations. He said he recommended that the Abhisit government and state officials defend themselves in court in cases involving state officials, but they ignored his advice.
“The Democrats have many legal experts. Why do they have to seek truth outside the court about the men in black? At the trial, there were only prosecution witnesses attacking state officials. Why don’t the Democrats give court testimony that officials opened fire to protect the people and to prevent riots because the other group was carrying weapons? [Then,] if they are ultimately punished by the justice system, they shouldn’t cry foul,’’ Tarit said. The “men in black” were unidentified armed men seen carrying out attacks at various locations during the 2010 riots. They have been linked by members of the previous government and some journalists to the red shirts. 
Summarising his expectations as the cases wind up, the DSI chief said people from both sides would be prosecuted. “It is about people quarrelling and then crossing a line. T
he red shirts crossed a line, the CRES also had the tendency to cross a line. It is a big issue that happened right in the heart of the city; nobody can fake evidence and the court will decide, not me,’’ he said.