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Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Put Sompien statue in full view of chiefs
What will be the best place for the statue of Sompien Eksomya? The Bannang Sata district police station in Yala, or police headquarters in Bangkok?
The idea to erect the statue for Pol Gen Sompien was mooted to honour the police officer who worked for 42 years in the restive southern region and was rewarded with what he had said earlier. ``I think they want to give me a general's ranking when I die.''
That was what he said bitterly when complaining he was fed up with unfairness in the police force and travelled from Bannang Sata to Bangkok on Feb 23 to ask Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to transfer him out of the area.
The fighter and down-to-earth guy did not want to quickly climb the career ladder from police colonel to general at the time he said that. His wish was very clear and simple. After spending more than four decades in the region plagued by insurgency and dangers, he wanted to take a break during his last year in service as a gift to his family. His bosses down there approved his request to post him to the district police station in Kantang district in Trang. Unfortunately, the big shots in the police force shot it down and those at Government House turned a deaf ear to his plea.
The outcome of his thwarted campaign was his death from a bomb attack on a pick-up truck in Bannang Sata on March 12 while he and his colleagues were on patrol in the district where he was the station chief. And all those who could have endorsed his transfer did was to pay their respects not to him personally but his body at the funeral ceremony at Wat Muang Yala in Yala city and later at Wat Klong Play in Hat Yai district in Songkhla.
The idea behind the Sompien statue is to honour his commitment and dedication to his profession. But to put it at the Bannang Sata police station where he spent most of his life would only add to the pain of his family. It will remind them that Pol Gen Sompien's tireless efforts to maintain peace in the province made no impact on the top officers in Bangkok.
The underlying message for the Sompien statute is not only about his courage and determination which can be a perfect example for young police officers to follow. The message is larger than that. It is also about the problems in the police system.
Pol Gen Sompien is an example of what can go badly wrong in the police force. You can be an excellent, dedicated policeman, but that is not enough for rewards to be given to you by your superiors in Bangkok. You must have political connections as well to help clear the way for your promotion, progress and to take you anywhere you want to go. Good policemen without strong backing from politicians will end up like Gen Sompien before the tragic incident.
Every year when the police transfer season comes around, political interference always plays a role in the promotions.
That situation worsens when the police force has weak leaders who do not have the guts to resist political pressure and reject the names list given to them by politicians.
Just like the case of Pol Gen Sompien. His request went through with the endorsement of his boss in the South and no argument from his colleagues working in Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala. But when it reached Bangkok it turned out differently. Sorry folks, but the position of police chief in Kantang district is already reserved. That was what he was told and led to his travelling to Bangkok to fight for what he deserved. By the time he found out, he realised that several plaques and certificates honouring his courage meant nothing compared with what he wanted to do once and for all for his family.
Still the national police chief and politicians could have done him a big favour after his disappointment over the Kantang position by putting him in another post somewhere in the southern provinces. But they did nothing.
The best place for the Sompien statue must be at the police head office in Pathumwan. It should be built where present and future national police chiefs can see it clearly from their office window. That will remind them of how badly Pol Gen Sompien was treated. And it will keep telling them that there are many more Sompiens out there in the South and other places. They do their best on duty and should be given fairness even though they do not have political backing.
For the family members of the late police officer, it will not be a big surprise if they do not vote for the Democrat Party any more in general elections.