Isoc in need of oversight

Isoc in need of oversight

The phenomenon of "ghost recruitment" has cast a long shadow over how the government spends tax money to recruit staff to work in restive southernmost provinces.

The government cannot and must not treat this shameful phenomenon as just more of the same bureaucratic corruption. To prevent the scandal becoming a crisis, a fair and reliable probe must be launched to clear the air about recruitment practices at the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) -- a pillar of our national security apparatus in the deep South. Left unchecked, the issue will demoralise personnel currently stationed at the base, the rank and file who put their lives on the line working in a dangerous area in unglamourous roles.

The shameful but familiar events involve a female officer who was transferred from the Royal Thai Police to work at Isoc Region 4 Forward Command in October last year.

Pol Cpl Kornsasi Buayaem, 43, is reported to have received her help from a senator with whom she was having an intimate relationship.

Isoc Region 4 operates in the dangerous areas of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces. Currently, there are 50,000 security personnel from the army, Royal Thai Police and ministries such as the state attorney's office recruited to work there. These government employees receive extra perks or compensation for risking their lives working in that dangerous area.

However, it was found that Pol Cpl Kornsasi neither moved to the region nor worked anywhere near; yet she was still the recipient of financial compensation from Isoc Region 4 worth 110,000 baht for her work from last October until July this year.

The case even plays into the hands of separatist movements that have tried to discredit the Thai government for mishandling security operation in the deep South. The scandal only proves that local suspicions of ghost appointments have had grounds. They are known as "ghosts" because they exist in name only and are frequently accused of being revenue generators for friends of those in charge.

According to Romadon Panjor, a Pattani-based analyst and coordinator at Deep South Watch, Isoc often claims to be understaffed despite official figures putting the current headcount in the region at 50,000 positions.

Pol Col Tawee Sodsong, a list MP for the Prachachat Party who has worked in southern provinces before, claimed that the case of Pol Cpl Kornsasi s just one of far too many discrepancies to be found at the agency.

It is the tip of an iceberg of problems for Isoc, which was founded in 1965 to suppress communists and handle "national security threats".

The current government has recently also tasked the agency with combatting the narcotics trade, human smuggling, natural disasters, environmental degradation, costal erosion, cyber security and even disproving fake news stories with its 7-10 billion baht annual budget.

Just a few years ago, questions were raised over Isoc's limited resources being spent on creating an online army of 180 fake Facebook accounts amid allegations of "information warfare".

Make no mistake, Isoc has handled some vital and risky missions with expertise and deserves its budget and resources. Yet, the agency is not above public scrutiny.

Isoc needs some serious oversight, or the effectiveness of the protection it offers from threats to the nation could easily become the main thing people worry about.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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