The Royal Thai Police's (RTP) record on corruption and misconduct is at an all-time low. It's reached the point where there's not a month or perhaps a week that goes by without news of RTP shenanigans.
The most recent incident is the case of policemen at Huay Kwang police station who yesterday confessed to extorting 27,000 baht from Taiwanese actress An Yu Qing.
The actress -- also known by her English name Charlene An -- posted details of the extortion that took place during the New Year period on the Thai Facebook page "Ni Hao Taiwan, Chan Ma Laew" (Hello Taiwan, I'm here). The claim was carried by many media outlets, including in Taiwan.
After the post went viral, the RTP went into face-saving mode. They launched an internal probe and even released CCTV footage to counter details of the actress's accusations until pressured by an internal probe carried out by the Metropolitan Police Bureau.
Finally, seven officers at the station confessed that they set up a checkpoint in front of the Chinese embassy and demanded the actress pay 27,000 baht in exchange for her release.
This act of shameless corruption adds to a long-drawn-out list of police misconduct.
Sure, a "few bad apples" exist everywhere, but the misdemeanours of RTP officers are becoming increasingly sinister and deeply systematic.
In the aftermath, the police superintendent of Huay Kwang police station was transferred to an inactive post, while the other officers involved are facing further scrutiny and presumably some form of punishment.
But many questions arise. How common are such extortion attempts? How many victims have there been? How do such corrupt police evade monitoring systems?
The national police chief, Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas, and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who oversees the RTP, yesterday sang the same vague tune that "bad cops will be cleansed from the RTP."
But that's far from good enough. What we are repeatedly seeing is the result of systematic corruption.
It is time for leaders to show responsibility instead of paying lip service.
After 2014's coup, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha pledged to reform both the RTP and the military. Lawmakers did draft a number of good police-law reforms, such as a law on police-rank promotion to reduce position-buying and making it law that a public prosecutor is included during police interrogations.
But most of such proposals faced resistance from the police and did not pan out.
Last week, Pol Gen Damrongsak even asked the Ministry of Justice to postpone the Anti-Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act that will take effect next month. One is the law's requirements is for police to use body cameras to record the arrest, interrogation and release of suspects.
So who is to bear the responsibility for the failure to have the police reformed?
It does not appear to be Gen Prayut.
When asked by the media yesterday what he is going to do to address the issue of police corruption, he said, "their bosses at the department will take care of these issues."
Such an answer won't assure the public. It's irresponsible for the leader who made grand promises of police reform not to take stock and realise what the reality of the situation is.