The national police chief took a shocking step on Monday. Pol Gen Somyot Poompunmuang went before the media and on live television to wave around blocks of 1,000-baht bills he said totalled three million baht.
The money was a "reward" for the policemen responsible for the arrest on Saturday of a foreign suspect in the Erawan shrine bombing. There is so much wrong with this act.
First is this matter of the reward. Pol Gen Somyot and several private individuals promised millions of baht as a reward in the bombing case. Three million was to come from his own pocket and unnamed friends. Panthongthae Shinawatra, the son of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, offered seven million baht.
It is the public's understanding and long-time practice that when such a reward is being offered it would be given to members of the public who come forward with details that help in the arrest and trial of suspects.
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Rewards are not expected to be given to police. Why? The primary duty of law enforcement officers including police at every level is to track down and apprehend criminals. It is their job. It is their duty and responsibility. It is fundamental to the oath they took when they joined the Royal Thai Police to enforce the law.
Pol Gen Somyot's claim that his force deserves a reward for one minor success in one major case is an insult to all the other police officers working on thousands of other criminal cases.
There is also the manner of Monday's gratuitous action by the police chief. He bragged that of the three million baht he plans to distribute, one million came from his own pocket, and the rest from unnamed "friends".
One is hard put to itemise every ethic broken here. They include a distasteful show of wealth, and admitting to having friends with special influence.
While Pol Gen Somyot's personal financial success is well known, the mention of anonymous, rich friends is out of line.
Perhaps most disturbing is to hand out plaudits -- let alone actual rewards -- in a case that is not close to solved. Virtually every question about the atrocity at the Erawan shrine remains open. These include the identity of the bomber, the motives and the methods.
The city bombers and those who helped assemble the bombs are still at large. Gen Somyot's force continues to chase leads. One example is the Thai woman, named and shamed on national TV by police, but who has denied any involvement and says she was overseas when the bombing occurred.
Last weekend's arrest of a suspect at a Nong Chok apartment was possibly a first step in resolving the case. And even though a second suspect was arrested yesterday, the bombing case remains open.
By giving out the reward in a huge televised show on Monday, the chief, who is retiring in a month, was helping to spread the false impression the case had been solved.
No doubt police detectives and officers deserve praise for the arrest of both suspects to date.
But the police chief should have been warning against premature celebrations of solving the bombing, instead of giving the impression it had actually been solved.
Police under Pol Gen Somyot earned two weeks of criticism and cynicism for much posturing and little progress in the initial two weeks of their bomb investigation.
The unfortunate truth is that last weekend's arrest of a suspect is the first positive police action seen.
Police never deserve a reward. Taking reward money for such a tiny step forward in the bombing investigation is unseemly. It is undeserved and the public will rightly condemn it.