Police stand their ground on female ban

Police stand their ground on female ban

Senior cop insists it's 'nothing to do with gender discrimination or curbing women's rights'

Female police cadets file into the grounds of the Royal Police Cadet Academy after their admission to the institute. The academy has made a controversial decision to scrap the admission of female cadets with immediate effect. Phrakrit Juntawong
Female police cadets file into the grounds of the Royal Police Cadet Academy after their admission to the institute. The academy has made a controversial decision to scrap the admission of female cadets with immediate effect. Phrakrit Juntawong

Terminating the recruitment of female cadets is a step backward for gender equality, say critics, although the police have stood their ground on the policy and insist that despite the move, the role of women in the police force will not be phased out.

After a decade of enrolments, no more women will be accepted to study at the Royal Police Cadet Academy (RPCA).

On Aug 28, the Royal Thai Police (RTP) wrote to inform the RPCA of the immediate enrolment cancellation, sparking an uproar from politicians and rights activists.

However, the RTP explained the cancellation has nothing to do with women's place in the police force.

The Aug 28 RTP order means the 280 seats reserved each year for female cadets will be scrapped. Like the male recruits, young female police cadets must be at least a graduate of Mathayom 4 (10th grade).

Before they enter the RPCA, they must have completed their studies and training at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School (AFAPS) for three years.

National police chief Chakthip Chaijinda said the cancellation stems from the armed forces regulation which requires that police cadets must be graduates of the AFAPS. Since the AFAPS no longer admits women to study, there is no room for female recruits in the RPCA.

"But this has nothing to do with gender discrimination or curbing women's rights. The RTP still offers job openings for women, just as we've always done," he said.

Pol Gen Chakthip said the RTP was increasing the headcount of female inquiry officers in charge of criminal cases related to youth and women. This is an area in which the female officers have excelled.

Krissanapong Futrakul, an assistant professor of police study at the RPCA, said female cadets go through the same training as the male students. But after graduation, female cadets are governed by regulations that they be allocated to work in only one capacity -- as inquiry officers -- which is less demanding for females.

The decision-makers figured the RTP should not need to spend money and time training the women for years only to end up placing them in inquiry positions, which could be filled by women graduates from other educational institutes.

The non-cadet female officers are typically trained for four months before they prepare to join the inquiry units.

Pol Lt Col Krissanapong said some female cadets complained they had to be trained just as hard as the men although their career path would not take them as far.

The female cadets unhappy with the inquiry job asked to be transferred to other state agencies.

He said the women may not need to attend the cadet school and be subject to vigorous training which may or may not be applicable to an inquiry job.

"The cadets are trained for a month in the jungle. Is that still relevant today?" the assistant professor said.

In the past, jungle training was to build a cadet's stamina and prepare him or her for hunting criminals hiding in the forests.

But in this day and age, crimes are mostly committed on the internet. "So the way we educate the cadets must also change," Pol Lt Col Krissanapong said.

A senior police officer in the Central Investigation Bureau, who declined to be named, said women are more skilled and better suited than men for certain police branches.

An alumni of RPCA Class 50, the officer said co-education has had its drawbacks. Some female cadets were known to become romantically involved with male fellow students, which hurt the grades of both cadets.

"But it's also true that the women cadets are part of RPCA's charm," he said.

A female deputy chief inspector, who is also an RPCA graduate, said closing down female applications has its pros and cons.

In a sarcastic tone, she said the closure would put to rest any nagging remarks that women have limited endurance and are likely to "wimp out" during training.

Work-wise, female police are needed for tasks such as a welcoming personnel in a royal reception or serve as guards at VIP events. She added the news about female police was not always fair. Many were accused of dodging the inquiry units for other work, which was not entirely true.

Meanwhile, a police woman, who applied for the position in the RTP using her master's degree in law from a university, said female inquiry officers are essential in handling sex crime investigations and other sensitive cases.

She was first put on sex crime cases but later shifted to general crime investigations. However, she disagreed with abolishing women admissions in the RPCA, saying field training sometimes help police cope better with the pressure from work.

Rachada Dhnadirek, a former Democrat Party MP for Bangkok, said cancelling the female cadet intake was a disservice to the promotion of women in security protection jobs.

In a Facebook message, she explained more women should study to be cadets since women are both offenders and victims of many crimes. It baffled her that the RTP neglected the value of women's roles in the police force.

Ms Rachada urged Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, in his capacity as chairman of the national committee on the promotion of gender equality, to intervene in the matter.

Ruengrawee Pichaikul, director of the Gender and Development Research Institute, said Gen Prayut will find himself in a tight spot having to speak on gender equity in the Asean forum next year if the women cadet enrolment issue is not resolved.

"Women have the right to choose what they want to do for a living and that right should not be curtailed by men's biases," she said.

Research showed women represented 7% of the police workforce in Thailand, compared with 20% in the Philippines, 18% in Malaysia and 30%, the world's highest, in Sweden. Indonesia founded a women's police cadet school, according to the institute director.

In some countries, policewomen were credited with putting together an investigation that led to the court victory of many female victims in sex abuse cases.

Policy-makers in the government must explain how the admission of women in the RPCA suddenly stopped.

"This backward thinking defies the global trend of greater recognition of women in workplaces," she said, adding the cancellation contravenes both the constitution and the Gender Equality Act.

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