Gambling not going away

Gambling not going away

A special panel asked to oversee the crackdown on illegal gambling dens will hardly achieve anything in solving one of the country's most persistent problems.

On Jan 5, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered the formation of such a panel. It goes without saying such a panel is just a time-buying tactic. The best it could do is to ease public pressure -- for the time being. The panel is seen by many as a government face-saving mechanism.

Initially, the PM said the panel would "track down and punish the offenders".

According to the PM, the panel will comprise officials from the Royal Thai Police (RTP), the Department of Special investigation, the Anti-Money Laundering Office, and the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission. As of yesterday, the government had still not named the panel's head.

The decision followed the Rayong incident in which a gambling den became a hotspot for Covid-19 infections late in December.

Yesterday, the number of accumulated cases was 529. Several were connected to the notorious gambling venue.

Members of a team of Rayong police were transferred to inactive positions after the scandal broke.

Following the Rayong outbreak, a swathe of raids have been conducted on gambling venues in several provinces including Bangkok, with more police being transferred to inactive posts. The government, of course, has been left red-faced once again.

Here's some discrepancies that would make the panel's performance not so promising.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is a legal expert, cautioned the panel would not be able to punish anyone. The panel has no such authority, as they would act like fact finders regarding police dereliction of duty, allowing gambling hosts to operate in their jurisdiction areas, Mr Wissanu said.

The number of police transferred for such a shameful cause is too many each year. Not just gambling dens, but also brothels and other entertainment venues involved with the sex trade.

In fact, it's an open secret that police would pretend not to see any such venue in their area as long as the operators could keep the business in order, without violence or controversy that would make it impossible to for them to maintain their "ignorance", like the Covid-19 outbreak in the Rayong gambling den.

But does it need a special panel to probe? The money culture in the RTP is a known fact.

It goes without saying the new panel would add to so many panels formed by the state whose performance does not lead to anything, nor will it bring about any changes.

Just take a look at the panel under former graft-buster Vicha Mahakun responsible for the hit-and-run case involving the Red Bull scion last August. The panel's outstanding work -- as Mr Vicha managed to track down wrongdoing by police officers, public prosecutors, politicians, and others with illegal money trails in the case -- has won public admiration.

Yet months after the historic findings, nothing has really happened, as the government maintains its ineptitude.

This kind of ineptitude prevents the government from honouring its promise and taking bold action in pursuing police reform that would make the RTP gain trust from the public.

True leadership and decisiveness from the PM are needed; a mere panel is unlikely to be up to the job.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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