Cops must be role models

Cops must be role models

The tragic death of Dr Waraluck Supawatjariyakul, an ophthalmologist at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Medicine, who was hit on a zebra crossing by a cop on a speeding big bike, has left the public with many questions.

The performance of the Royal Thai Police (RTP), especially regarding how it maintains discipline and compliance among its members, has been questioned after seven charges were made against the bike riding officer Pol L/C Norawich Buadok.

These charges include a failure to pay the annual tax for the motorcycle, to display a licence plate or to install rear-view mirrors apart from the charge of serious reckless driving causing death. It's concerning to see how a police officer who should be aware of the law broke so many of them.

Does the case suggest a pattern that should be promptly addressed? In another world maybe yes but not so for the RTP. Pol L/C Norawich's superiors have so far been brushing off the case, describing it as a one-off due to the mistakes of an individual, not systematic failure.

It is demonstrable that the case of Pol L/C Norawich is not the first of a cop breaking traffic laws. As seen in photos circulated online, police officers are often captured breaking the traffic laws they are meant to enforce.

Instead of going on the defensive, the RTP should take this case as a wake-up call and become more stringent when managing their officers. Their goal should be that the police behave as good role models for society. Unless the RTP can prove its own officers are not lawbreakers themselves, there's little hope that Thailand's road safety issues will be effectively tackled. Society is now, likewise, watching whether police will enforce the law when motorists fail to stop at zebra crossings following Dr Waraluck's untimely death.

The ownership of the Ducati Monster that the Pol L/C rode has opened up yet another grey area. While the police insisted the Ducati did belong to Pol L/C Norawich, not an impounded item as alleged by netizens, the motorbike's document trail as reported by the media shows that ownership had not been properly registered. It will bode ill for the RTP if it turns out that the officer has been involved in further sneaky practices. Either way, police need to share with the public all the details about the bike's ownership.

Astonishingly, even the Buddhist Sangha has been drawn into this murky tale. After being charged, Pol L/C Norawich and his father reportedly entered the monkhood at a Bangkok temple ostensibly to ask for forgiveness and make merit for the deceased doctor.

A question immediately followed. How can the temple let Pol L/C Norawich be ordained when the Sangha rule that governs Buddhist monastic activities forbids crime suspects from entering the monkhood?

It's at least a positive that the tragic death of Dr Waraluck has prompted society to seriously rethink the need to enforce laws about zebra crossings and road safety in general.

The case has grown beyond the accident itself. It has become another test for the RTP to demonstrate whether it can handle such sensitive issues in a professional manner. The police and other relevant organisations have a lot to prove. Justice must be seen to be done and every question answered in the process.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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