Police want conscripts to boost ranks

Force will propose change to police law

NONG KHAI - The Royal Thai Police Office will propose amending the police law to allow for police conscription as part of national service, a senior officer in the force says.

Deputy national police Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasanratchakij said an amendment to the Police Act is being prepared to provide for the annual drafting of 10,000 police conscripts.

National police chief Adul Saengsingkaew has given the green light to the proposal. Budget details are being worked out, he said.

Pol Gen Watcharapol said police conscription is being touted as a measure to address the force's staff shortage.

However, conscripts will be deployed in tasks involving public service rather than law enforcement.

Even though the government has approved a five-year plan for the police force to recruit 5,000 officers, the force remains understaffed, he said.

A strategic plan for developing the police, formulated a decade ago, envisages a 300,000-strong force. But it is still short by 90,000 men.

Pol Gen Watcharapol said the Border Patrol Police Division is becoming an ageing unit, with the average age of its personnel at 45. The unit will be less productive without a lot of new recruits.

"We are also losing staff due to retirement. There aren't enough replacements," Pol Gen Watcharapol told a seminar of immigration police attended by 100 officers Tuesday.

He said creating the police conscription will not be too much trouble. Thai men are already required to report for annual military conscription.

"We are asking for 10,000 men [among those who report for the military draft], They will get paid 9,000 baht a month," he said.

He explained the mandatory recruitment would help save national budget.

Under the current system of hiring people with higher education degrees, the salary on offer is higher than 9,000 baht a month.

Police conscription is being discussed with the Defence Ministry and the Interior Ministry.

Pol Gen Watcharaphol said he does not believe the military will object to the police taking some of the conscripts for its work.

"I think the armed forces will understand our needs. There are more than 100,000 men reporting for the draft [each year]," he said.

Pol Gen Watcharapol said police conscripts will undergo military-style training like other conscripts.

"They will be deployed at borders or at key government establishments to provide protection, or used in crowd control operations," he said.

According to the deputy national police chief, more police will be needed in the next few years when the Asean Economic Community (AEC) is launched in 2015. By that time troops will be required to be withdrawn from the border and replaced by police.

Currently, about 500 border patrol police have been deployed in the area surrounding the Preah Vihear temple, which has been the subject of a border dispute with Cambodia, he said.

Deployment of more border patrol police at the border will also ease the burden of immigration police, whose responsibilities will increase when the AEC comes into force.

The draft amendment to allow police conscription is expected to be ready soon for review by the prime minister and parliamentary scrutiny, Pol Gen Watcharapol added.

Pol Lt Gen Phanu Kerdlarppol, chief of the Immigration Police Bureau, said he has 4,000 staff and needs more.

He said the bureau plans to revamp all immigration checkpoints across the country in terms of manpower and equipment to prepare for the AEC.

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Writer: Wassayos Ngamkham