Thai Chief of National Parks, Mr. Rutchada Suriyakul Na Ayutya was released on bail Wednesday morning after being detained for corruption charges on Tuesday in Bangkok.
Mr. Rutchada applied for bail by depositing THB 400,000 (USD 11,547) in cash, which Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) accepted. The NACC deemed him to not be a flight risk, as he is a high-ranking civil servant holding the position of Director of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.
On Tuesday, Thai police were reported to have caught Mr. Rutchada accepting a bribe at his office in Bangkok. They seized THB 500,000 (USD 14,432) in cash from the office.
According to Thairath, former Superintendent of Kaeng Krachan National Park, Mr. Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn accused Mr. Rutchada of abusing his power by forcing other civil servants to pay up to THB 500,000 or else he would transfer them to undesirable locations that are far from their home.
Furthermore, Mr. Rutchada was also accused of collecting tea money (a bribe used to facilitate any business dealing) from directors of different conservation sites. He allegedly decided the fees based on the park’s budget such as 18 percent of the operational budget and costs from National parks and Wildlife sanctuaries and 30 percent from Forest Fire Protection units.
NACC has released the 59-year-old temporarily after bail until he is again summoned by the court.
Mr. Rutchada was a former director of the National Park Service before rising to the position of Deputy Director-General of the Forest Department. Later, in 2015, he was appointed as Inspector General of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
He also served as Director-General of the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion from 2017 to 2022 before becoming the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation Director-General in February 2022.