The bare fact that Phuket Vice Governor Snith Sriwihok was honest enough to say that he was there only to learn, not offer his opinion, and he was to report what the sea gypsies had to say to Phuket Governor Chockchai Dejamornthan speaks greatly of both men. Rarely does Phuket witness such an admission from high-ranking officials, even about such a topic that has gained headlines around the world.
And to be truthful, it is not their fault. The annual transfers of Governors and other high-ranking officials around the country each October is aimed at ensuring that no high-ranking provincial officials are in one province long enough that they are effectively left to their own devices to develop their “network of contacts”, business or otherwise.
The downside side is that each October a new Governor lands in Phuket, along with new Vice Governors, who all very likely have no idea of the range of issues at play on the island, or the long history behind them. They simply do not know enough to come up with any sensible solution.
This is not to excuse them from attempting to resolve problems once they learn about them, but at least they are learning about the problems before forcing a “solution” that no-one wanted.
The same system of annual transfers is claimed to be used by the Royal Thai Police, but a little further investigation reveals that is not really the case. At least with Phuket, they rarely venture far from this profiteering isle – and if they do leave, they soon return.
Phuket native policeman Maj gen Chalit Tintanee, years ago promoted from Chalong Police Deputy to Superintendent to cheers from a mob of locals gathered outside the police station, was moved to Phuket Town Police then to Tukuapa District, which includes Khao Lak, then to head Phang Nga Provincial Police Chief. He is now back on the island as Region 8 Police Deputy Commander.
The list of Phuket police transferring out only to return again goes on and on.
Col Aroon Kaewwatee, who was once chief of the Thung Thong Police (now called Kathu Police), was moved to Phang Nga to serve as Takua Pa Police Chief, and is now back on the island as Deputy Commander of Investigation of the Region 8 Police.
Likewise, former Chalong Police Chief Col Krittapas Dechintarasorn was promoted to Superintendent of Takua Pa Police in his last transfer out of Phuket, while former Patong Police Chief Col Jirapat Pochanapan was promoted to Superintendent of Phang Nga Town Police.
Even Maj Gen Decha Budnampeth, who 10 years ago served as a Provincial Police Deputy Commander in Phuket, likewise moved to Phang Nga and then returned to Phuket to become the first Commander of the Region 8 Police headquarters – which used to be based in Surat Thani, but made the B169-million move to occupy its 185-rai site in Mai Khao because “Phuket is a very busy tourism island”.
How effective this has been for the police is a matter of public opinion.
But all this leads to one simple question: What’s worse? Keeping people in Phuket long enough that they might exploit their positions of power, or keep shifting them so they have little experience with the issues to be resolved, and likely won’t be around to be held accountable for them after they’re long gone?
Looking at the effectiveness of the examples above, your guess is as good as ours.