The news also comes after Col Anotai swept away the previous 35-strong team of police volunteers who had for years assisted tourists in need of police services, with Col Anotai saying that he wanted to make a “fresh start” with his own team comprising Thai and foreign volunteers.
Regarding police transferred out of Patong amid corruption investigations, Col Anotai told The Phuket News today (Aug 21), “No, none of them have come back.”
“They were transferred because they had been accused of being corrupt, and while the investigation into their activities is still ongoing, there is no reason to have them posted back in Phuket.”
Col Anotai urged people to have faith in the Royal Thai Police investigating their own officers.
“Do not worry, we will try our best with our investigations. Please keep confident in the Royal Thai Police,” he said.
Patong Police last year faced a slew of allegations of corruption that spiralled to include even previous Patong Police Superintendents.
On Nov 10 last year, Patong Police Chief Col Chaiwat Uikam and his Deputy Chief Lt Col Somsak Thongkleng were both transferred to Surat Thani on pending an investigation into receiving bribes from entertainment operators amounting to a staggering B100 million a month. (See stories here and here.)
Days later, on Nov 18 last year, Patong Police Chief Col Tassanai Orarigdech – who replaced Col Chaiwat – was transferred instantly by order of Acting Inspector-General of the Royal Thai Police, Gen Suchart Teerasawat.
Also transferred instantly in the same order were Capt Adul Boonrat of the Patong Police, along with Snr Sgt Maj Jakthiporn Nakpongphat and Patong Traffic Police Chief Snr Sgt Maj Worachat Thappun.
Those transfers came while the Patong Police were embroiled in a scandal over extorting money from a seafood restaurant. (See story here.)
“The transfers are severely affecting the morale of Phuket Police. They also question whether the inspector-general has authority to transfer officers to Bangkok from other provinces,” a source close to the investigations told The Phuket News at the time.
(For a more exhaustive list of the corruption investigations directly involving Phuket Police and Immigration officers late last year, click here.)
NEW VOLUNTEER REGIME
Meanwhile, Col Anotai today also confirmed to The Phuket News that he has dissolved the contingent of police volunteers* who have assisted tourists in Patong for years, to be replaced with new recruits. (*note: not the Tourist Police volunteers, which act separately.)
“We will open applications for police volunteers soon,” Col Anotai said.
“We are still working on the qualification required and the conditions of work. We have yet to decide these things, but will finish this as soon as possible.
“I need to carefully specify the duties involved, as the main job of the volunteers in Patong is as translators and assistants, they not have any power like police officers have,” he added.
Col Anotai was vague on his reason for dissolving the long-serving team of volunteers, only offering the explanation, “They were out of time.”
He added that he came to his decision after talking with other police and people in Patong area.
The new volunteers to be selected will be foreign and Thai, he noted.
“We will check their criminal records, their health and fitness, and they will all undergo a ‘Thai Patong culture course’,” Col Anotai said.
The ‘Thai Patong culture course’ is to educate foreigners about the types of Thais that are in Patong, he explained.
“They will get certificates and ID cards, and maybe new uniforms,” Col Anotai added.
“We are also looking for volunteers to look over tourists at the beach, and we are even looking to have spotlights along the beach for nighttime safety,” he said.
Regarding Col Anotai’s explanation that police volunteers do not have the same authority as regular Royal Thai Police, The Phuket News notes that all police volunteers who have served alongside Wal Brown, who has been a senior police volunteer in Patong for well over a decade, have long understood that they do not have police authority and that any law-enforcement activities must be conducted with a Royal Thai Police officer on duty.
Mr Brown today explained that the former volunteers’ relations with Col Anotai had not developed well since the officer arrived to take up the post as Patong Police Chief in April.
Regardless, he wished the new recruits well.
“Our mandate has been to help tourists with things they get caught up in through no fault of their own, say a motorbike accident or having things lost or stolen, or being kicked out of accommodation that they had already booked,” he said.
“We don’t start patrols at 11 o’clock at night through to 3am dealing with drunks, fights, pickpockets or clubs staying open well past trading.
“We also already did help tourists along the beach, but we don’t do that at nighttime,” he added.
Mr Brown pointed out that the former police volunteers were technically named the International Liaison Volunteers, and were not part of the Tourist Police Volunteers or any other volunteer group.
“All we did was help tourists to understand what the local laws were and the local issues involved, and explained to them what their rights were in certain cases,” he said.