Thai palace fires ‘extremely evil’ official

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FROM THE FILES - PRINCE MAHA NAMED NEW KING OF THAILAND

BANGKOK (Reuters) – A top official in Thailand’s palace has been fired for “extremely evil” misconduct and political interests which threatened national security, the government said on Tuesday.

Police General Jumpol Manmai, who had served as intelligence chief under ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had until recently been one of the most senior figures in new King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s household.

The government said in a statement Jumpol had “committed misconduct considered extremely evil behavior” which did not befit a civil servant with a position close to the king.

“He has wrongly used his official position for personal gain. He had political interests which were detrimental to national security and not trusted by the king,” said the statement signed by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

A police spokesman said he could not comment on whether Jumpol would be prosecuted over the accusations in the statement. Jumpol faces a separate investigation for building private property on protected land.

Neither Jumpol nor his family were immediately available for comment.

With prison sentences of up to 15 years for any offence of insulting the monarchy, Thais are cautious of commenting on anything related to the palace. The law also limits what news organizations can report from Thailand.

The king has asserted his authority on many fronts since taking the throne in December after the death of his widely revered father. As well as changes within the palace, he has requested constitutional changes to which the junta agreed.

Party politics stopped in 2014 when the junta seized power in the name of ending political chaos. But a divide remains between a largely Bangkok-based, conservative elite and followers of Thaksin’s populist movement.

Thaksin, overthrown in 2006, lives in exile to avoid a jail term for corruption that he says was politically motivated.

His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, became prime minister after a landslide election win in 2011, but her government was overthrown in the last coup.

The junta has promised elections, now scheduled for next year, and has set up a military-led panel to try to encourage reconciliation between political rivals.

(Reporting by Bangkok bureau; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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