National Police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk’s statement that the killing of 24-year-old Chiraphong Thanapat while being interrogated by no less than six officers under the direct command of Pol Col Thitisan Utthanaphon, chief of Nakhon Sawan Police Station at the time, had “damaged the image of the Royal Thai Police” needs to be taken not with a pinch of salt, but a whole dose of them. The only way this incident can cause more damage to an image that has been blighted with corruption for decades is to lay down the principle that killing people in custody is a “no-no”.
Public perception was already out of the gate within hours of of Thitisan being presented at the national police headquarters in Bangkok on Thursday night with Thai social media abuzz with concerns that police were already working to protect their own. That public understanding of how the Royal Thai Police works did not come out of nowhere; that is exactly how people understand how the Royal Thai Police works.
Already the entire handling of the incident is collapsing into a debacle of incredulity, not including Thitisan’s own statements to the press – bar his claim that he did not intend to kill Chiraphong. How can you get any money from a suspect who’s dead?
The rest of the trumpeting that justice will be served is already falling on deaf ears. Why would a fugitive with such financial means who is already at large surrender at will? Common perception has it that the deal has already been done.
As for the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) announcing that it will now investigate Thitisan’s finances is a little late, and comes after his luxury mansion and collection of elite luxury cars, giving him the nickname “Jo Ferrari”, were already well known. It’s as if the NACC and the Royal Thai Police are now saying they had no idea Thitisan was of such wealth, at this stage estimated to be upwards of B250 million. Believe that one if you want. Keep in mind that as a police colonel Thitisan’s monthly salary from the government was B40,000. Then again, extremely wealthy police colonels in Thailand are not exactly rare.
In case the upper echelons of lawmakers and law enforcement in the country are not aware, people are not holding their breath for justice to be served in this case. It’s just another despicable act by corrupt police who are nothing more than gangsters in uniform. That’s the perception.
What people are tired of is nothing being done to address police corruption. There is no reason this latest case will result in genuine reform, mostly because all the public has received this time, yet again, are assurances that reforms are underway. Those assurances came from the very same office that has had the past seven years to start tackling the problem.
This has been going on so long the “image problem” the Royal Thai Police has is that no one in an appropriate position of authority wants to implement real change simply because they either benefit from it or are powerless to do anything about it. With decades of history showing that this holds true regardless of which political players are in power, or who has been installed as the latest national police chief, speaks for itself.
There is no need to worry about the image of the Royal Thai Police when it comes to any effort to counter corruption, simply because it couldn’t get much worse. In the meantime, the general public can rest assured in how easy it is to identify an honest cop in Thailand. He’s the poor one.