Cops on the brink

Cops on the brink

A report about a female police officer suffering from depression induced by boot camp-style work training is a red flag suggesting officers may be in need of professional help despite how tough they might seem.

The issue grabbed society's attention after Police Lance Corporal Chantaros Sukdayotin posted on her Facebook account over the weekend claiming she had been subjected to repeated physical and mental abuse during training, which drove her to severe depression.

She said one of her trainers lashed her leg with ropes, forced her to accept consecutive long shifts and deprived her of sleep.

The 25-year-old posted photos on her social media accounts showing her clad in a hospital patient's gown along with the remark: "We should be trained to be tough, not to become sick." She even wrote her will and said she would donate her body for medical studies before concluding the post with "farewell".

After her Facebook page went viral, the Royal Thai Police (RTP) launched a fresh probe into the training, which is part of the recruitment process for officers who wish to work at the Kong Roi Nam Wan (Sweet Company) -- a crowd-control unit staffed with only female officers.

Officers from Kong Roi Nam Wan are often sent to handle young political protesters and provide security for VIPs as well as work at police checkpoints. Despite its soft image, the unit must endure a hardcore training course to be deemed fit for duty.

Pol L/Cpl Chantaros will apparently be assigned to report directly to the acting national police chief after she recovers. And while she chose to speak up, many of her colleagues have opted to suffer in silence.

There have been reports of depressed policemen snapping and harming others or even themselves as a result. Since 2019, some 168 police, mostly rank-and-file officers, are known to have taken their own lives, while hundreds more have inflicted self-harm.

Perhaps the most egregious case is that of Pol Capt Panya Khamlarb, who, in October 2022, killed scores of preschool kids at a nursery in Nong Bua Lam Phu province before turning the gun on his wife, their young son and finally himself.

Apart from a history of narcotic use, he was also on file as having had mental problems in the past, the RTP later admitted.

Many officers are also now receiving treatment at the Police General Hospital or special counselling from the RTP.

Yet this end-of-pipe psychological treatment is not enough. Instead of waiting for armed and mentally stressed officers to snap, the RTP must improve their workplace environment and add safeguards to make our policemen ensure they are mentally fit.

First of all, psychological appraisals and a better work rotation system are needed. The current system relies on end-of-pipe treatment, meaning that after they recover they must return to the same toxic work environment.

Above all, the RTP must clean up its work system and make promotions and transfers transparent and fair, as many officers reportedly experience mental anguish due to being treated unfairly.

Reports of corruption, internal strife between the national and deputy national police chiefs and the mental breakdowns of female officers suggest things have gone badly awry at the RTP.

No matter what the problems are, the outcome is clear: a toxic and unfair workplace is incubating graft and mental breakdowns.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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