Bribery, extortion, graft, abuse of power, a hand in illegal businesses — you name it, these are just a few of the sins committed by numerous bad cops. And quite a few of the offenders rank in the upper echelons of the police force, which is stripping public confidence and trust in the Royal Thai Police (RTP).
With scandals emerging one after another, particularly police involvement with top Chinese mafiosos, the RTP’s image has been going down the drain.
A few scandals have been exposed recently by Chuvit Kamolvisit, the massage parlour tycoon-turned whistleblower. His actions have opened multiple cans of worms for the RTP.
Mr Chuvit, who once served as the main sponsor of city police booths, has shed light on how some bad cops have had a hand in many shady businesses, and even tried to derail the judicial process against Chinese crime boss Chaiyanat “Tuhao” Kornchayanant, who operated casinos, entertainment venues, and a plethora of illegal activities as police officers turned a blind eye. After Tuhao’s arrest last year, which saw some of his wealth confiscated, senior officers were able to secure his release until the scandal was exposed.
The tycoon has brought to public attention the connection between the syndicate ring, and those in police service.
Another case that has become the talk of the town involves an actress, the ex-girlfriend of the operator of the illegal gambling website macau888. She complained of police intimidation after she dropped a clue about the illicit business last month. In a Facebook post, she alleged that the website was run by “four brothers”, all with the initial “Bor”, one of whom was her ex-boyfriend, known as “Benz Daemon”. We later learned that her ex-lover’s younger brother is a police officer.
The macau888 controversy followed the extortion of a Taiwanese star, who shared with her fans her abhorrent experience while being detained at a police checkpoint during her visit to Bangkok’s Thong Lor district.
Several readers must still have fresh memories of the ex-chief of the Nakhon Sawan police force who, together with six other officers, fatally tortured their victim, a drug suspect, while trying to extort money from him back in 2021.
On top of the list of corruption cases, however, is the infamous hit-and-run case involving Vorayuth Yoovidhya, the Red Bull scion. On Sept 3, 2012, he ran his Ferrari over a Thong Lor traffic officer, killing him at the scene. As the court granted him bail, Vorayuth fled the country and has been living a life of luxury abroad ever since.
This particular case speaks volumes about how just how deeply rooted graft is in the system, particularly among the RTP, which is at the front line of the judicial process. More than a decade later, the long arm of the law still cannot reach Vorayuth, or touch most of those who abused their power to help him escape justice. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s intervention by establishing a probe is just an exercise in time-wasting.
Police misconduct is nothing new. In fact, it’s an open secret in Thai society. Only with the help of social media can these scandals be easily exposed.
The fact is, we can barely tackle police corruption until we recognise the root cause of the problem, namely, that positions at all levels are up for sale. May I remind you of a case of fraud involving exams for non-commissioned officers that happened last year?
A decade ago, a senior police officer revealed that the position of police station chief in prime business areas could fetch at least 10 million baht.
Pol Maj Gen Wisut Wanichbutr, in a tell-all interview, informed the media that those who pay to get promoted higher up the ranks would naturally have to get that “investment” back, plus some profit, so they have enough cash to buy even more senior positions. “So they have to extort money from those in illicit businesses, gambling dens, underground lotteries, brothels, and the drug trade,” he said.
Prominent economist Phasuk Phongpaichit conducted some research on police graft about 30 years ago, and her findings still apply today. She found that those seeking the position of commander in the Central Investigation Bureau, the Metropolitan Police Bureau, or station chiefs in the provinces would have to pay at least 10 million baht. Now the sum must be much higher.
And yet no matter how severe the damage to the RTP, no police chiefs have ever resigned in a show of spirit.
All these shenanigans prove the failure of the much-touted police reforms, one of the goals declared by Gen Prayut when he took the power in 2014. Police reform remains a pipe dream.
The reform law was finally enforced late last year, but it has no clout. Those higher up in the police command who are keen to keep their business going, as usual, have watered down the law.
After all these futile attempts, we cannot help but blame Gen Prayut, not just because he is the head of the government, but because of his role overseeing police affairs. Over the years, the army chief-turned-politician has just been sitting on these problems. Obviously, he lacks the stomach to reform the police, because, in doing so, he would risk losing his support base in the institution. But in not doing so, he is a disappointment.