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Wednesday, September 14, 2011
A matter of revenge or correction? You decide
'No revenge but correction (mai kaekaen tae kaekhai)!" Such was the mantra vigorously preached by the Pheu Thai Party during the election campaign to assure its opponents, real or perceived, that they would not be avenged by the party through abrupt transfers out of their positions, particularly in case they are senior government officials handpicked by the Abhisit government.
So when Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung made an open threat over a week ago to remove the incumbent national police chief Wichean Potephosree claiming that the latter was good at planning but not at suppression - which must be required for a police chief - my first reaction then was that this was the start of a political revenge and the Pheu Thai government had broken its election promise of "mai kaekaen". Many other people who are not supporters of the Pheu Thai Party, I believe, shared my opinion.
But now I realise that I may have misunderstood or been misled by the party's mantra and was too preoccupied with the first part of the mantra - that is, "mai kaekaen" while totally ignoring the second part, "tae kaekhai".
So in the mindset of the Pheu Thai people and their red shirt followers, the removal of Pol Gen Wichean was not an act of revenge but rather an act of redemption for Priewpan Damapong - that is to return him the justice he should deserve for the fact that he was bypassed by the Abhisit government despite the fact that he was the most senior police officer and should have been made police chief over a year ago instead of Pol Gen Wichean who spent almost his entire career working in the palace.
So to right the wrong, Pol Gen Wichean should be removed to make way for Pol Gen Priewpan.
But the government could not just make the transfer without a good cause as the police chief did not do anything wrong. And it was here that Chuvit Kamolvisit, former massage parlour tycoon and Rak Thailand party list MP, came in with his explosive video clip of an illegal casino operating right in the heart of Bangkok shown in parliament during the debate on the government's policy statement.
While a few heads rolled at the Suthisarn police station which has jurisdiction over the Ratchadaphisek area where the illegal casino was said to be located, all the talk about the casino appears to have disappeared surreptitiously just as the way the scandal was exposed out of the blue by Mr Chuvit.
No more threats from outspoken Mr Chalerm that more heads will roll, including that of the new police chief, if there are still illegal gambling dens in the capital.
And they better watch out, if Mr Chuvit ever shows another video clip of an illegal casino right in the city again from now on.
If the removal of the police chief is part of the "correction" process, the transfer of Thawil Pliensri, secretary-general of the National Security Council, to the Prime Minister's Office in order to pave the way for Pol Gen Wichean is definitely not. He is, after all, a scapegoat.
So he has done the right thing by taking his case to the Central Administrative Court and to the Civil Service Commission's merit protection panel not just to seek justice but also to protect his reputation from Mr Chalerm's insulting remarks.
Let's face it. Whether all the transfers involving senior officials of authority which have taken place in various ministries or which are to take place in the near future are deemed as revenge or a correction, the undeniable harsh reality is that all these transfers have been subjected to political interference not only by the Yingluck government but also by all previous governments.
In other words, the transfers have never been fair if the merit system is to be used as a benchmark measurement whereby promotions are based on performance, competency, resourcefulness and seniority.
Pol Gen Wichean should have known that he was not the first police chief to be axed because of political interference.
Nine of his predecessors were shown the exit by politicians who came up with various reasons to justify their removals to make way for their trusted men to fill the slots.
Among them are Pol Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwon who was dismissed by the Abhisit government over his alleged mishandling of the yellow shirt protesters to be replaced by Pol Gen Wichean, Pol Gen Seriphisut Taemeeyavej who was removed by the Samak government, Pol Gen Kowit Wattana by the Surayud government, Pol Gen Sant Sarutanont by the Thaksin government and Pol Gen Pracha Promnok who grudgingly resigned to escape dismissal.
The merit system has been a big joke. Any police officer can testify to that. For many of them, it's money first which has the biggest say in promotion or, to be more correct, to be transferred to "good" positions. And "good" positions mean positions where easy money can be made which usually refers to police stations overseeing areas where there are many sin premises such as bars, motels, massage parlours and gambling dens. So it is fair to say that officials are partly to blame for the dysfunctioning of the merit system.
It is undeniable that every government wants to put its own trusted men in key positions of authority such as directors-general and police chiefs, so does the Pheu Thai government. But what really matters is that the right men should be put in the right jobs.
And if Pol Gen Priewpan is the right man for crime suppression, especially drugs, as guaranteed by Mr Chalerm, then we will see pretty soon.
"Mai kaekaen tae kaekhai" is just beginning. More heads are expected to roll, including probably that of Tharit Pengdit, head of the Department of Special Investigation, who may feel relieved - for now at least - after getting some sugar-coated words from Mr Chalerm. The gullible among us may believe that all these position changes are just part of the correction process. But they can count me out.
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