Two 'PDRC guard' SEALs probed

Two officers of the Naval Special Warfare Command, or Navy SEALs, are facing a disciplinary investigation for working as hired bodyguards for anti-government protesters.

Petty Officer 1st Class Sompong Tannark and Petty Officer 1st Class Preecha Moonpuak, both aged 34, were arrested for carrying weapons at a police checkpoint on Taksin Road in Bangkok’s Thon Buri district on Wednesday afternoon.  

Police said PO1 Sompong was carrying a 9mm Glock on his waist while PO1 Preecha had a disassembled pistol of the same type in his shoulder bag. Police also found in their posession two People's Democratic Reform Committee security guard cards, five magazines and almost 40 9mm rounds.

The two officers were taken to Bukkhalo Police Station for questioning. Metropolitan Police Bureau deputy chief Thitirat Nongharnpitak, who led the three-hour inquiry, said the navy personnel allegedly confessed to being hired to provide security for PDRC key leaders at the Lumpini rally site.   

Navy secretary Rear Adm Kan Dee-ubon confirmed PO1 Sompong and PO1 Preecha were members of the Naval Special Warfare Command, Royal Thai Fleet, but were currently assigned to assist with work at the Royal Thai Marine Task Force in the southern province of Narathiwat. 

They were arrested while returning from Narathiwat. 

Rear Adm Kan said navy chief Adm Narong Pipattanasai had ordered the Royal Thai Marine Task Force to set up a fact-finding committee to investigate the officers’ involvement with the PDRC. 

If found guilty, Rear Adm Kan said, they could face maximum disciplinary punishment which is dismissal from service.

The navy chief last month urged all navy personnel to remain politically neutral and ordered those who were not involved in dealing with the anti-government protests to refrain from commenting on the matter, saying the sensitivity of the situation could affect the image of the Royal Thai Navy.

A source at the navy said Adm Narong had instructed that all SEALs return to their bases and stay away from the PDRC political rally as well as ordering Navy SEALs commander Adm Winai Klom-in to stop giving comments over the protest-related violence. 

Pol Maj Gen Thitirat said the guns found in possession of PO1 Sompong and PO1 Preecha belonged to the navy but since the emergency decree was imposed in Bangkok, police had charged them with carrying weapons and ammunition in public without a good reason. 

Rear Adm Kan said the navy would let the police proceed with the charges of illegal carrying of weapons against the two officers, adding they would not be protected.

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