Keeping up with the cartels
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Keeping up with the cartels

For the new NSB chief, cracking down on drugs is more than just a job

Pol Lt Gen Chinnaphat Sarasin new chief of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB), has made busting drug operations his career and lifetime work. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)
Pol Lt Gen Chinnaphat Sarasin new chief of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB), has made busting drug operations his career and lifetime work. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

A super-elite family background and close connections to the powers that be -- including Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon -- have not lessened the worth of the new chief of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB), Chinnaphat Sarasin.

"You may say it is a part of my father's glory, but I dare say that I deserve this position because I have been working hard on narcotic suppression," Pol Lt Gen Chinnaphat told the Bangkok Post.

"I'm not afraid of things that have been said behind my back because I didn't jockey for this position, and I have been working on narcotic suppression since the day I became a policeman."

Known as "Por" among his friends and colleagues, Pol Lt Gen Chinnaphat, 55, is the second son of the late national police chief Pao Sarasin.

He was promoted to succeed former NSB chief Pol Lt Gen Sommai Kongwisaisuk, who had recently retired.

InquiryLines, published bi-weekly on Mondays is a Bangkok Post column to present in-depth details of a range of issues from politics and social interest to eye-catching everyday lives.

The Sarasin family is known as one of Thailand's elite families -- one that can count a privy councillor, former prime minister, and numerous politicians and business executives as its members.

However, unlike many younger members of the Sarasin clan who chose to go into business, Pol Lt Gen Chinnaphat decided to follow his father's footsteps and joined the police force.

As soon as he joined the Royal Thai Police (RTP), Pol Lt Gen Chinnaphat decided to work for the narcotics suppression department, because he had been following the issue since he was still at university.

Pol Lt Gen Chinnaphat also believes the narcotics trade is national security issue that needs to be stamped out.

"Anti-drug operations help people by solving social problems," said the new NSB chief, who received his masters degree on political sciences from Chulalongkorn University.

Many of his superiors urged him to change his specialty, because the narcotics trade is known as a dangerous beat in the RTP.

Officers have had to to deal with ruthless drug lords that are willing to do anything to protect their business.

Despite the advice, Pol Lt Gen Chinnaphat remained committed to the beat. Even when he was appointed as a close aide of the former national police chief Pol Gen Kowit Phakdiphum, his jobs mainly dealt with drugs.

"I've been working in narcotics suppression from the beginning, about 30 years ago. I'm firm with my decision and I will never leave this field," he said.

Pol Lt Gen Chinnaphat admitted that policing drugs is a thankless job because the nature of his work requires him to work quietly and keep a low profile.

Looking at the past, the new NSB chief said he could count how many times he wore a police uniform because he often appeared in plain clothes, doing undercover missions, mostly in northern villages -- the bastion of drug smugglers.

"People might say I am a son of the late national police chief, Pao Sarasin. But on the ground, I am just an ordinary policeman like any other policeman."

Not any more. The new NSB chief will now need to wear formal uniforms and work in an office -- drafting policies, talking to the media and forging alliances with other agencies.

Pol Lt Gen Chinnaphat has to think more strategically, combining action, such as raids, with deliberation with other state agencies for joint collaborations.

The new boss just launched a mission to "weed out" all gangs that he views as major threats to national security.

"I don't fear influential figures. I will arrest you if you do wrong," he said.

Despite his determination, Pol Lt Gen Chinnaphat admitted it is harder to catch drug dealers, as modern technologies have proven to be a headache for police. Newer machines, cheaper chemicals and drug precursors enable mass production at lower costs.

"In the old days, the largest confiscated narcotics batch was around 1-2 million pills of methamphetamine," he said. "Now the amount has risen to 20 million pills per shipment."

"So, they pump out a lot of drugs to sell in the market. They no longer care if some smugglers get caught," he added.

"Now, they often divide the drugs in small bags to avoid police detection."

With this worrying situation, Pol Lt Gen Chinnaphat has to double his efforts.

The NSB is working with the Department of Industrial Works at the Ministry of Industry to prevent the smuggling of drug precursors to neighbouring countries, where drug production bases are located.

This issue can become complicated because some drug precursors are only listed as controlled substances, which may drive producers to seek out any loopholes that they can exploit.

The government might need to revise the law on chemical substance and impose harsher penalties, he said.

''The move to cut the flow of drug precursors is a crucial part of the NSB's efforts against the growing mass production of speed pills, which is facilitated by the availability of cheap chemicals and raw materials," Pol Lt Gen Chinnaphat said.

This issue is compounded by the use of modern technologies, which allows producers to simply step up production to compensate for the amount of drugs lost in police crackdowns, he said.

These drugs, he continued, are often smuggled into the northern provinces before they are shipped out to other regions.

Cross-border trafficking is another issue that requires further cooperation with other agencies.

Thai authorities cannot intervene with the affairs of other countries, so we need to cooperate with our neighbours to keep an eye on illegal activities that are happening in their territories, Pol Lt Gen Chinnaphat said.

However, if the drugs are found here, traffickers cannot escape harsh penalties, he stressed.

The NSB is planning to use better technology to scan for concealed drugs.

At present, officers spend about 20 minutes to inspect a vehicle at a checkpoint, which is too long and may affect motorists' travel times, Pol Lt Gen Chinnaphat said.

The agency will also work more closely with the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) to track drug networks' financial trail. All measures will be carried out nonstop, he stressed.

"I have plans for the New Year," he said. "There's no break for drug missions."

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