6 June 2024

Embattled former national park chief Rutchada Suriyakul Na Ayutya was “temporarily dismissed” from government service today (Friday), with immediate effect, after initial findings show there are grounds to support bribe-taking allegations against him.

Natural Resources and Environment Permanent Secretary Jatuporn Buruspat, who signed the dismissal order, said that the action is intended to ease pressure on and damage to the image of officials at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and to ensure transparency.

Thalerngsak Petchsuwan, deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, in his capacity as head of the disciplinary committee, said today that the panel had questioned about 50 people and most of them have given testimonies pointing in the same direction, namely that bribes have been paid to Rutchada, with a handful of them insisting that they paid money to Rutchada in return for images of King Chulalongkorn.

He also said that the panel will also prepare charges to be filed against the former national park chief, complete with supporting evidence.

After that, the panel will invite Rutchada to acknowledge the charges against him and to prepare his rebuttals within a week, said Thalerngsak.

The findings, so far, have not implicated anyone apart from Rutchada, according to an informed source.

Jatuporn said that the legal affairs section of the ministry believes that allowing Rutchada to stay on in the ministry may cause more damage and recommended that he should be removed from service.

In order to cover all the charges and all aspects related to the alleged bribery, he said that investigation would take time and might not be concluded quickly as earlier speculated.

Rutchada was arrested at his office at the department on December 27th by police from the Counter Corruption Division and officials from the National Anti-Corruption Commission. Five million baht in cash was found in his office.