Drug control, road safety loom large
New police chief lays out ambitious plans, despite having just a year to serve
Combating drug trafficking and tackling online crimes are the top priorities of the new national police chief, Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas.
Pol Gen Damrongsak, the 13th police chief, assumed office on Oct 1, replacing Pol Gen Suwat Jongyodsuk who was due to retire on Sept 30.
He has only one year left to serve the country, a fairly short period compared to his predecessors, including the 11th national police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda who held office from October 2015 to September 2020 and was succeeded by Pol Gen Suwat from October 2020 to September 2022.
However, Pol Gen Damrongsak said he is positive about mobilising the police force of 200,000 officers.
Born in the northern province of Phrae, he grew up in a family that ran its own business. After finishing primary school in his hometown, he went to Bangkok to further his studies at Bodindecha (Sing Singhaseni) School with an ambition to enrol in the prestigious Triam Udom Suksa School.
"I did not think that I wanted to be a civil servant. My friend's father bought an application form for the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School so I tried. I passed the examination and also one for Triam Udom Suksa School. But when I saw the air force uniform, my passion started to grow," said Pol Gen Damrongsak.
Initially, he aimed to join the air force; however, his short-sightedness deterred him from becoming a pilot. Pol Gen later enrolled in the Royal Police Cadet Academy (RPCA) after finishing at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.
After finishing the RPCA, he started as deputy chief of investigations at Phlapphla Chai police station in Bangkok.
He later earned a master's degree in public administration in the United States, before completing a crowd control course at Tacoma Police Department. He also took part in the Pacific Training Initiative of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
After returning to Thailand, he served as a deputy chief in the Patrol and Special Operations Division, and deputy chief of the Protection and Crowd Control Division. He later became Amnat Charoen's police commissioner.
After a stint in the province, he was appointed commissioner of Metropolitan Police Division 2 in Bangkok and became a deputy commissioner of Provincial Police Region 5 in the North.
Eventually he rose to become commissioner of Provincial Police Region 3 covering the lower northeastern provinces, during which he initiated anti-drug programmes in almost 1,500 villages. The scheme earned him national recognition and an award from the Narcotics Control Board.
He also initiated a project to curb road accidents in eight northeastern provinces which was later adopted by local government organisations nationwide to mobilise road safety.
"If we want to curb the number of road accidents, we have to gather data to analyse the causes. That way we can propose funds to pay officers who work overtime trying to develop the database," said Pol Gen Damrongsak.
He said the data indicates that most people who die from road accidents are not residents where the crash took place. Also, to curb the number of fatalities and casualties, police have to work together to enforce the traffic law.
"Do not drive if you are drunk, and always wear a helmet. If people obey the law, the number of deaths from road accidents will drop. To prevent accidents during the Seven Deadly Days campaign, we have to work all year-long," he added.
Pol Gen Damrongsak said he plans to revise police policy during his time in the job. On his first day, he announced police would take more proactive approaches.
"I would like to improve the police force to become a reliable organisation that people can trust," said Pol Gen Damrongsak.
He said he would apply his anti-drug programmes as a model to combat drug trafficking on a larger scale, especially in areas where locals are troubled by drug addicts.
Relating his own experiences in the lower northeastern region, Pol Gen Damrongsak said officers have to spend a certain amount of time familiarising themselves with villagers. They also have to show a commitment to solving drug problems in the long term and create surveillance networks.
Pol Gen Damrongsak said he will spearhead projects combating online crime with the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau (CCIB). Any complaints filed to police will be handed to the CCIB specifically.
"I will not attend engagements that have nothing to do with police work. I only focus on drug combat and security matters," he said.