Regime 'lacks will' to reform police force
NCPO's broken promise upsets public
One promise of the military coupmakers won public approval, but after two years, police reform seems further away than ever.
|New police officers march for commanders at a graduation ceremony. The force has successfully resisted reform promised by the military two years ago.|
Following the May 22, 2014 coup, the public could not have been more thrilled when police reform turned out to be chief among the priorities of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).Two years after the coup, critics say they have seen little progress on the reform front and ask if the regime has the political will to bring them about.
Police reform is part of the NCPO's justice reform plan and has drawn heavy interest from the public.
Pol Maj Gen Kosin Hintao, a former deputy chief of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), says the regime has to identify problems and set priorities if the changes are to get off the ground.
In his view, the most pressing problem in the police force is a lack of transparency in appointments and promotions, which affects overall efficiency and performance.
A myriad of smaller issues also needs to be addressed such as budget planning and spending to ensure the force is properly equipped, and personnel training to raise the performance standards.
"If we identify the problems, we'll be able to tell if the regime has done anything. It's important to set priorities," he said.
The former CIB deputy chief also said the Royal Thai Police (RTP) lacks a tool to measure performance, suggesting crime rates can be used as a benchmark and criteria for an annual reshuffle.
"The RTP resorts to transferring or dismissing officers in the wake of shocking crimes. It should have criteria when it comes to performance,"
A mid-ranking police officer, who asked not to be named, criticised the NCPO for lacking the political will to push ahead with police reforms, saying the regime has "absolute" power but is unable to deliver changes to the force.
"The regime doesn't have a strategy or clear action plan. Without political will, there is no roadmap to police reforms. There are only empty words,"
He said the long-delayed reshuffle of senior police is proof problems with the process still remain, and noted no action was taken when accusations of position-buying in the police force emerged recently.
Seree Suwannapanon, chairman of the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA)'s committee in charge of political reforms, has been cautious about reforming the Royal Thai Police.
The officer also said the problem of kickbacks has also been rampant in the force over the past two years.
Before his retirement, former national police chief Pol Gen Somyot Poompunmuang claimed he had come across widespread corruption and abuse of authority in the Immigration Bureau.
Pol Maj Gen Kosin Hintao said the police force has been clear of political interference since the coup, but its morale is unusually low.
Welfare benefits are not improved and the NCPO's order to scrap police inquiry officers' positions is like rubbing salt into the wound.
Young but well-connected police officers receive promotions due to their ties with "the boss", he said without elaborating.
"We are in a crisis. First it is the people who lost faith in the police. This year the police lost faith in their own organisation. Their leaders lack leadership, uphold no principles and fail to stand up for the force.
Wasant Lueangprapat, a political scientist from Thammasat University, said the reforms remain a distant dream two years after the coup. The regime, like other powers-that-be, seems to exploit the police for self-interest.
"The NCPO uses the police as a mechanism to implement its policy and stabilise its power. The regime has done nothing at all, be it on salaries or welfare benefits, skills development and or human resources administration,"
He said this kind of relationship is not unexpected, partly because of the police's centralised structure which has to be revamped if reforms are to be achieved.
According to the academic, decentralisaion of the police force has been pursued by other countries to avoid or minimise political interference. The police's job is mainly to prevent crime and keep the community safe.
The centralised structure is keeping the police from doing its job, he said.
Mr Wasant said police chiefs in the provinces are appointed by the RTP, which causes disruption of work and policy implementation.
Moreover, these officers are aware they will be transferred somewhere else and may not be fully committed to the job.
Source: BKK Post