Junta puts police reform on 'too hard' list

Junta puts police reform on 'too hard' list

Police reform was ranked among the top priorities of the military junta, the government and reform advocacy groups and a majority of the public favour restructuring the force to improve an image long tainted by abuse of power and corruption.

But a year on from the May 22 coup, priorities appear to have changed among the junta leaders. Which should not be a total surprise, given that kriengjai remains a norm in Thai society.

Some sort of brotherly camaraderie seems to have been cultivated and developed between the national police chief, Pol Gen Somyot Pumpunmuang, and the military top brass during their time working together to carry out policies laid down by the government and the National Council for Peace and Order.

Of course, the police have always been the "good boys" - good at following orders without question, like the men in green.

Hence, police reform is no longer a priority issue, or even an issue of interest, for the government and the NCPO. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said tersely last week that police reform would be left to the next government. No explanation was given why the back-pedalling now.

Veteran reporters were smart enough not to keep pestering the prime minister for an explanation when he was not in a mood to elaborate on the subject.

So, thanks to Maj-Gen Sasern Kaewkamnerd, the deputy government spokesman, for his clarification on Monday. He said the Royal Thai Police Office had worked really hard helping implement the government’s policies to ensure social order and suppress corrupton, human trafficking and drug smuggling.

Moreover, he praised the police for their crackdown on lese majeste offenders and for protecting the monarchy.

On the issue of police reform, Maj-Gen Sansern explained the process would be time consuming and, therefore, it was appropriate that the task be left with the next government. More importantly, he stressed that police must be involved in laying down the police reform roadmap.

Eureka! Now why won’t there be any police reform under Gen Prayut’s government and NCPO?

Political activist Suriyasai Takasila wonders if the NCPO is actually reluctant to reform the police force. He doubts the next government will restructure the office either, because some parties would want police help in the general election, and parties which form the new government would also require police support.

One of the three concerns raised by the government and the NCPO is that they are not sure whether their reform roadmap would be implemented by the new government. Which is indeed a valid point.

As far as we, the people, are concerned, what guarantee is there from the government and the NCPO that their expectation the new government will carry out police reform will ever materialise?

It is indeed a big letdown from the junta. The junta leaders kept telling us not to let the coup be a waste. Without police reform, will it be considered a waste?

Veera Prateepchaikul

Former Editor

Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.

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