Police reforms are 'years behind schedule'

Police reforms are 'years behind schedule'

Drug suspect's death puts pressure on govt

Pol Col Thitisan Utthanaphon, former chief of the Muang Nakhon Sawan police station, is at the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok on Thursday night after surrendering in relation to his torture and killing of a drug suspect in Nakhon Sawan province early this month. (Photo: Arnun Chonmahatrakool)
Pol Col Thitisan Utthanaphon, former chief of the Muang Nakhon Sawan police station, is at the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok on Thursday night after surrendering in relation to his torture and killing of a drug suspect in Nakhon Sawan province early this month. (Photo: Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

The alleged torture and killing of a drug suspect while in police custody has intensified calls for overdue police reforms while also casting a spotlight on the slow examination process of a bill aimed at improving the structure of the police force.

Senator Kamnoon Sitthisamarn, a member of the panel vetting the bill, said the examination process is proceeding at a snail's pace because members have differing views.

Mr Kamnoon said the death of the drug suspect in custody has eroded public confidence in both the police force and the government, so swift action is required against those at the centre of the scandal so to allay public concerns.

He also criticised the government-sponsored bill, which aims to resolve structural issues within the Royal Thai Police (RTP), as being unclear and lacking substance. The bill is based on a draft written by legal expert Meechai Ruchupan that was revised by the RTP before it was submitted to parliament.

Mr Kamnoon said the bill allows lawmakers to make broad changes, which means the process has dragged on for longer than it should. He said the 45-member vetting panel, which includes a group of former police, has conflicting views.

Despite this, the examination of the bill has yet to reach "crucial issues".

"It's hard to say how long the committee will take to get it done, but I think it won't be finished in this current session," he said.

Former Democrat MP Witthaya Kaewparadai on Thursday blamed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who chairs the Police Commission which oversees the RTP, for delays to reforming the police.

Mr Witthaya said the government's failure to implement changes meant that long-standing issues within the police force, including corruption and position buying, were left unresolved.

Police reforms are years behind schedule, he said.

The constitution stipulates that reform in various fields including police reforms must be completed within one year of the promulgation of the charter on April 6, 2017.

Mr Witthaya also accused the prime minister of failing to ensure that appointments and promotions must be based on seniority and other qualifications.

"But the government avoids addressing position-buying and uses the old system," Mr Witthaya said. "It is an important issue but the prime minister stalls."

Wirach Ratanasate, the chief government whip, said the bill is unlikely to be passed during this session while noting the scrutiny process is slow due to various arguments. He said parliament will try its best to speed up the process and get it completed within a year.

Palang Pracharath Party MP Sira Jenjaka, spokesman of the scrutiny committee, said the bill fails to address police investigations and interrogations.

He said it should have been put up for public hearings and include input from low-ranking police officers before it was forwarded to parliament.

He said the bill does not introduce anything new to address structural problems.

Meanwhile, Ramet Rattanachaweng, secretary to the parliament president, said one of the key elements in the bill is the setting up of a committee to consider complaints against police accused of malfeasance. He said the proposed committee is hoped to help people who face abuse of authority by police.

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