The Downfall of Tharit the Chameleon


Above: From Manager, December 12, 2012
DSI Chief Tharit and a prostitute–the similarity and difference between two careers…

News that former DSI chief Tharit has had his assets seized (NACC seizes assets of ex-DSI chief and Tarit confident he can defend assets) may signal the end of the career of one of the most openly opportunistic functionaries in recent Thai political history.

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) was conceived in the 1997 constitution as an independent organization to get around the Royal Thai Police’s institutionalized corruption. The Thai police’s politicization strangled the fair filing of cases and influenced decisions about what would be investigated as a crime.

Thaksin’s era as prime minister, in particular, demonstrated how control of the police force by one of his relatives or other cronies was key to wielding political power without legal repercussions.

Tharit Pengdit, as director of the Department Special Investigation, remains a symbol of how politics ate away at hopes that any Thai organization could remain impartial.

Tharit is known for dramatically changing according to the political wind-–aggressively bringing cases against the Red Shirts during one government and then dropping them to go after Democrat Party leaders in another. He even personally cleared Thaksin’s hand-picked candidate for Bangkok Governor in an unusual Sunday press conference.

In many cases, the charges brought by the DSI were timed for political leverage. For instance, the opposition was obliquely warned in 2012 that they risked being charged as revenge for blocking Thaksin amnesty. After refusing to lift their objections, Democrat Party leaders were harried with charge after charge including long-dormant questions about Abhisit’s nationality.

This was a signal to all that a sitting government could still use investigations and criminal charges–-as Thaksin was renowned for doing–-to influence and punish its enemies.

Tharit’s fawning conduct towards whoever was in power marked the DSI as yet another political weapon to wield against whoever was in the opposition.

Tharit was an easy target for cartoonists and was often referenced in Thai-language political cartoons:

2014: Tharit the Chameleon
2013: Kick the Pig into the Poodle’s Mouth
2013: Thanks, Tharit…
2013: Chalerm’s Rolls Royce
2013: DSI Clears the Pheu Thai Candidate
2012: It is All a Conspiracy
2012: The Difference Between the DSI Chief and a Prostitute
2010: Tharit vs Jatuporn
2010: Tharit shoots his Mouth Off About Cambodia

More: DSI chief is proving to be a powerful political tool
During the time of the Democrat-led government, Department of Special Investigation (DSI) chief Tarit Pengdith was seen as a lackey of then-deputy premier Suthep Thaugsuban for his role in helping the government fight against the red shirts.
Now, during the time of this government, under Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, this very same Tarit is doing his best to crusade against the opposition Democrat Party…

Also: Two Years After Crackdown, Still No Justice
…The Abhisit government charged UDD leaders and hundreds of UDD protesters with serious criminal offenses, but did not file charges against any government officials or military personnel. Since the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra took office in August 2011, the focus of criminal investigations has shifted entirely to cases in which soldiers were implicated, while ignoring those involving UDD violence…

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