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Cablegate: Thailand's Top Ipr Cop Transferred

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBK #1475 1360002
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 150002Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3029
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC

UNCLAS BANGKOK 001475

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE PASS USTR

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: KIPR ECON TH
SUBJECT: THAILAND'S TOP IPR COP TRANSFERRED

REF: BANGKOK 419

1. (SBU) Summary: Thailand's lead police commander for IPR
enforcement has been eased out of his position as part of a larger
police shakeup. Rights holders had given General Visut high marks
for reinvigorating police action against IPR violators, with
high-profile raids on manufacturers and distributors of pirated
product. However, his penchant for publicity earned him enmity from
others. His replacement is well-considered within the police force,
but a general unknown in the IP community. It remains to be seen
whether he will place the same level of priority on IPR enforcement
as had General Visut. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Effective May 1, Police General Visut Vanichbut, Commander
of the Economic & Technological Crime Suppression Division (ECOTEC)
and the lead police official on IPR enforcement in Thailand, was
transferred to the Children, Juvenile and Women's Division. General
Visut's transfer was widely expected after his close ally National
Police Chief Seripisut Temiyavej, who had strong links to the
previous coup government, was himself pushed out in March by a newly
elected administration. Visut remains on the job as Acting
Commander of ECOTEC until a royal endorsement of the police transfer
list is signed.

3. (SBU) Since assuming his post in February 2007, General Visut
had been held in high regard by IP rights holders in Thailand. Soon
after the USTR announcement that Thailand would be elevated to the
Special 301 Priority Watch List (PWL) for its continuing pervasive
piracy problems, Visut declared he had taken it upon himself to
remove Thailand from PWL. He personally led a series of
high-profile raids on pirated optical disc manufacturers resulting
in large-scale seizures. Rights holders praised his enthusiasm for
IPR enforcement and his willingness to conduct ex officio actions,
undertaking raids without waiting for requests from rights holders.
Others, however, noted that although Visut appeared to be not
personally corrupt, he demanded compensation for his forces' efforts
from rights holders. The practice was not uncommon in the past, but
was brought to new levels by Visut. His showboating style and
credit-grabbing earned him enmity from other RTG officials.

4. (SBU) A not unwelcome casualty of Police Chief Seripisut's
dismissal was the transfer of General Apichart Chuaeates, commander
of the Metropolitan Police Bureau's Division 6 and another close
ally of Seripisut. Apichart's division had jurisdiction over areas
with the highest concentration of wholesale and retail piracy sales
in Bangkok, and rights holders had earlier protested Apichart's
unwillingness to undertake effective enforcement against IPR
violators who in some cases operated just down the street from the
district's main police station (see reftel).

5. (SBU) Visut's replacement will be General Kovit Wongrungroj, who
will transfer over from the Railway Police Bureau after the police
transfer list is endorsed by the palace. Kovit is considered an
able commander but is not widely known in the IPR community, and it
remains to be seen if he will tackle Thailand's piracy problems with
the same vigor. Police officials say that General Visut had taken a
particular interest in enforcing IPR laws, but at the expense of
enforcing tax and finance laws which also fall within ECOTEC's
responsibility. In the interim between Visut's transfer and the new
commander taking up post, rights holders say obtaining police
manpower for IP raids has been extraordinarily difficult. The
Motion Picture Association's local representative told Econoff that
raids on retail outlets of pirated product are off 80 percent since
the transfer was announced.
JOHN

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