Director-General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Rutchada Suriyakul Na Ayutya, was arrested today (Tuesday) on corruption charges.
Armed with a search warrant, officials from the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and police from the Anti-Corruption Division (ACD) raided Rutchada’s office at 9.30am this morning and formally notified him of the charges. The search of his office uncovered 5 million baht in cash. He has denied all the charges.
Rutchada was later taken to the ACD office for questioning.
The arrest was the result of an investigation following a complaint received by the ACD from Chaiwat Limlikhitaksorn, former chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi, accusing Rutchada of transferring an official to as post in a rural area for refusing his demand for a 500,000 baht bribe.
Rutchada was also accused of demanding money from budgets allocated to various units under the department, such as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and fire-fighting units.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa said today that he was shocked to learn about Rutchada’s arrest, adding that he was previously unaware of Rutchada’s alleged misconduct, except for the bribery allegation made by Chaiwat.
Regarding the transfers within the department, he said that the initial decision rests with the department head, but the list will have to be screened by the permanent secretary as a matter of procedure.
He did not confirm or deny whether the reshuffle list would be revised, now that Rutchada is in police custody on corruption charges.
He did say, however, that Rutchada’s case must proceed in accordance with the law.