NLA speeds up moves to reform police force
Patronage system 'must be weeded out'
published : 1 Dec 2014 at 06:00
newspaper section: News
Lawmakers have vowed to accelerate proposals to restructure the police amid revelations of rampant corruption in the upper echelons of the force.
The government was already considering plans to reform the Royal Thai Police to distance senior officers from political influence.
The move, supported by many members of the National Reform Council (NRC) and the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), has gained fresh momentum after the arrest of former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pol Lt Gen Pongpat Chayapan.
Pol Lt Gen Pongpat and his alleged network of senior police and civilians face serious charges including bribery and lese majeste.
Corrupt police have long bribed one another for favours, according to NLA member Det-udom Krairit. "They must be weeded out and replaced with officials who can regain the trust of the people," he said.
Without "clean" officers to replace the crooked ones, the legal system could collapse, said Mr Det-udom, who is also president of the Lawyers Council of Thailand.
Reform proposals to overhaul the force suggest a dual approach of cutting police connections with politicians and increasing the power of the public to hold officers to account.
Seri Suwannaphanon, chief of the committee on law and justice reform at the NRC, says police agencies must be restructured to give the force more freedom without having to react to the demands of politicians.
This would discourage police from offering benefits to politicians to win their support in exchange for job promotions, Mr Seri said. The situation often prompts officers to try to reclaim their "investments" through further corruption, he added.
His committee wants to decentralise the police by dividing the force into two levels — one at the central government level and another serving local administrations. Local people should be empowered to help remove officers from their jobs if they are found to be dishonest, Mr Seri said.
Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, who oversees security affairs, also has spoken out about the problems in the force, including allegations that some police spend up large to buy senior positions.
Angkhana Neelapaijit, president of the Justice for Peace Foundation, supports Gen Prawit's stance, but questions how he plans to wipe out the practice of "trading" in senior job titles.
She argued the Royal Thai Police must improve the salaries and benefits offered to low-ranking police to solve police corruption.
That would discourage them from illegally demanding money and benefits from people or committing crimes themselves, she said.
Meanwhile, a Suan Dusit Poll finds wide support for moves to clean up the force. The poll, which interviewed 1,229 people nationwide late last week, gauged public reaction to the latest police corruption scandal. A total of 95.5 % agreed the time has come to clean up the police.
A further 81% said they want authorities to take action against Pol Lt Gen Pongpat and the other suspects to set an example.