RTP ructions 'won't result in reforms'
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RTP ructions 'won't result in reforms'

No sign of end to split in top ranks

Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol, left, and his deputy, Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn.
Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol, left, and his deputy, Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn.

Police reform still looks a distant prospect as internal rifts, scandals and political inference continue to beset the Royal Thai Police (RTP), according to observers.

The recent high-profile conflict between national police chief Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol and his deputy, Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn is a case in point amid criticism the police force is getting nowhere with reform.

In a move aimed at preventing the scandal from spiralling out of control, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who chairs the Police Commission, moved the two police generals to work at the Prime Minister's Office.

A committee was also appointed to look into the conflict within the RTP.

It is no secret that Pol Gen Torsak and Pol Gen Surachate are rivals, as they vied fiercely for the position of national police chief last September.

Just two days before the Police Commission met to name the police chief last year, allegations emerged that Pol Gen Surachate might have been involved with the online gambling website BNK Master and linked with money laundering.

He denied the claim, describing it as foul play. While Pol Gen Surachate was busy clearing his name, Pol Gen Torsak, who is set to retire this September, won approval for the RTP chief position.

Angkhana: 'Protect the public'

After Pol Gen Torsak's appointment, the rift seemed to have eased -- but the truce didn't last long.

A new round of the conflict erupted as lawyers representing Pol Gen Surachate accused about 30 police of taking kickbacks from BNK Master.

Pol Lt Col Krisanaphong Poothakool, an associate professor in criminology and vice president at Rangsit University, said the conflict within the RTP has eroded public confidence.

He said the conflict might have been linked to the transfer and promotions involving the subordinates of the two feuding police generals.

"The law opens the door for political interference in the police force," he said, referring to the National Police Act, which stipulates that a prime minister serves as chairman of the Police Commission.

He said the RTP is a centralised organisation, and the government must reform the police force by delegating authority to regional units.

Former attorney-general Khanit Na Nakhon told the Bangkok Post that police reform appears to have gone nowhere despite the issue having been raised a long time ago.

Wirut: 'Not about internal conflict'

In particular, police reform plans initiated by the now-defunct National Council for Peace and Order after the 2014 coup failed to deliver any tangible results, while the current government has not shown any commitment to reform so far, he said.

"It is difficult to solve problems because the police force is prone to political interference. We can't expect politicians to solve the problems. They only seek power and attempt to meddle with the force rather than tackle the root cause," Mr Khanit said.

Pol Col Wirut Sirisawasbutr, secretary-general of the Institute for Justice Reform, told the Bangkok Post that the transfer of the national police chief and his deputy to inactive posts was the wrong approach.

"It is not about an internal conflict. It is about law enforcement. Did the transfer really help solve the problem?

"Enforcing the law against anyone who commits wrongdoings is the right way," Pol Col Wirut said.

Angkhana Neelapaijit, a former member of the National Human Rights Commission, said promises of police reform by politicians in recent years have yet to materialise.

"The recriminations between conflicting parties do not benefit the public. Officers should devote their time to protecting people instead," she said.

Krisanaphong: 'Problems exposed'

Khanit: 'Police prone to interference'

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