Interview with Suwana Suwanjuta
Suwana Suwanjuta, Director General of the Department of Special Investigation, Ministry of Justice of Thailand
The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) is a law enforcement agency under the Ministry of Justice of Thailand. It was established on 3 October 2002 and celebrated its 12th anniversary last year (see CPG’s 1st Online Magazin 2015).
According to the “Special Case Investigation Act” of 2004 the DSI is entrusted with the task to investigate complex criminal cases requiring special inquiry, investigation, and special collection of evidence; criminal cases with actually or potentially serious effect upon public order or moral, national security, international relations or the country’s economy or finance; criminal cases being a serious transnational crime or being committed by an organized criminal group; criminal cases in which an influential person is a principal, instigator or supporter; criminal cases in which the administrative official or the senior police officer who is neither a special case inquiry official nor a special case officer, is the suspect as there is reasonable evidence of a crime committed, or is the alleged culprit, or is the accused. Recently the DSI had faced some criticism for allegedly having been exploited as a political tool in certain political cases to which DSI Director General Suwana Suwanjuta refers in the interview below. The DSI and CPG have been cooperating for many years. In 2013 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between both institutions with the aim to strengthen human rights and good governance in the work of special case officers of the DSI.
Director General Suwana Suwanjuta, prior to your current office as the Director General of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), what were other high ranking positions you held?
I had worked for the Ministry of Justice for a long time. Since I graduated in accountancy, I worked as internal audit officer. Then, I worked as Chief of the Finance Subdivision, Director of the Finance Division, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, and Inspector General of the Ministry. I was Director General of the Rights and Liberty Protection Department for five years and Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice for 3 years. Then I was appointed as Director General of the DSI.
Having an accounting background and experience as comptroller, how can you make use of such expertise to develop your current work?
The DSI is a law enforcement agency which is charged with preventing and suppressing crime. Therefore, its officers have the duty to investigate special criminal cases. However, like other agencies, there must be supportive or administrative work. I will use my experience in accountancy and financial supervision to support the DSI on the organizational level like I did before in the Ministry of Justice.
With regards to legal knowledge, since I had worked for the Ministry of Justice for a long time as the Director General of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department, I have indebt knowledge of and experience in law, both national law and international law, in particular pertaining to rights and liberties. Moreover, I am familiar with judicial administration such as counseling, receiving complaints and compensating victims. I am also supported by legal officers from the Ministry of Justice to properly take care of the legal work.
With respect to integrative work, I focus on inter-agency cooperation striving to enhance excellence of DSI officers. In my role as an administrator I believe that cooperation with other institutions is crucial for the success of our organization.
When you were assigned your current office what were your expectations and what are your experiences so far?
I once worked here as Acting Deputy Director General when the DSI was just founded and supervised the DSI when I was Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice so that I knew well about the background and current situation of the DSI when I began to work here. I acknowledge that the DSI has recently lost some of the public’s trust. However, since I have been working here, everyone cooperates very well within the DSI, even though we still have many things to do and many plans to realize. I appreciate it.
Because officers of the DSI possess considerable knowledge and capacities, they should also have a strong will to perform their duty to gain public trust, in accordance with the mission of the organization. I believe that we can work together to perform our duty as the people expect us to do. Personally, I am concerned with two matters. The first is trust of our superiors. The second is the organizational image which is expected by the public. The image of an organization is hard to build but easy to decline.
What are your personal goals for the DSI and its work under your guidance as Director General?
With regards to our main mission I personally think that special cases must be really “special”. This coincides with statements of Mr. Wissanu Krua-ngam, Deputy Prime Minister, and Gen. Paiboon Khumchaya, Minister of Justice, who provided us a policy which we are currently working on and trying to implement. Furthermore, the public is concerned that the Director General has too much power. I accept this opinion and have introduced special committees to monitor cases. These committees will also screen the Director General’s order for any case. This will increase our credibility.
About pending cases, I speed up their conclusion while taking care that we also handle them with fairness. I am aware that “justice delayed is justice denied”. The types of cases that we focus on include in particular environmental cases, consumer protection cases, human trafficking cases, money laundering cases, drug trafficking cases or economic and cyber space crime. Those cases require strong cooperation between related organizations.
With respect to supportive work, there is a need to provide justice within the organization itself. When our people feel that they were treated unfairly, they must be able to file a complaint and enter into a proper procedure. We must run our organization with transparency and accountability so the officers can effectively bring justice to society. We need to take care of our back office which is a division supporting our main mission in various fields such as finance. In doing so it assists officers who work in the front line. In this way we can work together effectively.
Concerning the preventive work of the DSI, we as a law enforcement agency which has the duty to take care of the people, both prevent and suppress crime. Suppressing a crime is just a consequence of crime. When a crime is committed, damages occur and it is hard to compensate or to find remedies. Preventing a crime involves much lower costs. From my point of view, Thai authorities generally tend not so much to prevent crime rather than to focus on suppressive measures. Our Department has a lot of tools to support crime prevention. One example are our Regional Operation Centers which are distributed throughout the country being located in ten different regions. If signs for relevant crimes are detected by these units they will conduct preliminary investigations in the respective region by gathering information and intelligence. Their subsequent assessment will then be sent to us for consideration whether a full investigation will be conducted or not.
How does the cooperation between DSI and CPG fit in your vision of the DSI?
When I took office, I learned that DSI and CPG have been cooperating on the basis of a Memorandum of Understanding since 2013. The DSI appreciates the good and positive cooperation between both parties. Our vision must be international and our work must be up to international standards. Our motto is “Honor, Expertise and Honesty”. Expertise is crucial for our work, especially in technical matters. CPG supports us with seminars and training programs which are beneficial for our Department and we are looking forward to our future cooperation.
Thank you very much for the interview, Director General Suwana Suwanjuta.
The interview was conducted by Shavaorn Wongcom, CPG Project Assistant. Pictures by Dr. Sabine Carl (CPG)