Meditating on a new kind of criminal

Meditating on a new kind of criminal

Cyber police chief says being a good Buddhist is helping him lead his team

Pol Lt Gen Kornchai Klaykiueng, or "Big Jaeng" to friends and close colleagues, the first commissioner of the new Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau, may come from a police family but, in conversation with the Bangkok Post, says it is his grounding in the psychological aspects of Buddhism, with its emphasis on space for reflection, that has really helped him make a start on tackling the growing problem of online crime.

He graduated from the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School and then Royal Police Cadet Academy, before starting his career as a detective at a station in Ratchaburi province.

His ascent of the career ladder at the RTP since then has been steady, first by becoming commander of the anti-human trafficking division then later assuming the post of inspector-general. In October last year, former national police chief, Pol Gen Chaktip Chaijinda, appointed him as head of a new bureau established to deal with internet-related criminal activity.

"It was a challenge to be the first to head up this bureau because I had to start from scratch. We have come this far thanks to police commanders from other departments who helped mobilise people, budgets and equipment for us.

"At the moment, I'd say we are 90% of the way towards where we want to be in terms of expertise and manpower."

For those that know him, it came as a surprise to find out that Pol Lt Gen Kornchai was to lead the police effort to log on and fight crime in its most modern guise, as he is known to most as a traditional hands-on style of officer.

However, he says that his background (he is said to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of amulets), has actually been an unexpected boon as his team learns to play by a new set of rules.

"I am not deeply religious, although I turn to Buddhism to calm my mind as I recognise that my impatience can sometimes hinder the clarity of my thinking and prevent me from achieving my goals.

"If you ask me how I think Buddhism and cyberspace are connected, I'll say you need to be more mindful than ever when surfing the internet as everything and everyone can be a lie or an illusion. It reminds me of how I learnt that in every truth there is a lie and in every lie there is a truth.

"Becoming a commissioner here I have had to make use of my past experience as a crime suppression police officer, but also learned to navigate the dichotomy of the cyber world in which acting fast but being thorough is essential."

The RTP's webmaster speaks proudly of his bureau's achievements during the three months since its inception, with a record of 579 arrests and a further 166 charges to back up his cautious claim of success so far.

His unit has divided its remit into five broad categories: scams through call centres, personal data theft and Ponzi schemes such as Forex 3D; online trading and e-commerce; violation of the Computer Crime Act and Cyber Security Act such as creating or sharing fake news and ransomware attacks; and online sexual related crime such as the procurement of sexual services, forced labour or online pornography and finally online gambling.

He says that his team at the bureau is learning that the best approach is a subtle one. Police at the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau, he added, must be adaptable and also either qualified in, or subsequently trained in, internet intelligence to make sense of the evidence left behind by criminal activity conducted from behind the glowing LCD screen of a suspect's laptop, particularly using social networks.

However, making a case out of digital footprints can pose a unique challenge.

"It's not easy to accuse an individual of committing a crime in cyberspace if you don't have very solid evidence or exact identification," he said, adding that discerning between free speech and incitement and other lawbreaking forms of expression is a fine balancing act.

Another challenge is monitoring those who have been convicted and served their sentences, as their expertise makes them especially hard to catch.

Pol Lt Gen Kornchai wants to collaborate more with the Department of Corrections to keep more of an eye on former inmates.

"Once they are out, we have found that cyber crime offenders are more likely to reoffend than other former convicts -- so we want them to know that we can keep an eye on their online activities as well as there everyday ones."

However, the cyber police commission predicts an increase in personal data theft, particularly targeting those new to the internet who are forced to engage with online transactions during crisis management such as the Covid-19 epidemic.

Nevertheless, he remains confident that it's a battle his team will win.

Pol Lt Gen Kornchai said cybercrime police is working closely with the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society.

"We are the first in Asean to utilise 5G in our work and now every ministry can tap into the Government Data Centre and Cloud Services," he said.

"They may be smart, and disguise themselves behind avatars and alter-egos and we can trace and locate them. As with other police forces around the world, we are becoming ever more proficient in tackling this type of criminal.

"There is nowhere for them to hide," he concluded.

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