The all-to-common assumption in Thailand, that people in uniform can do as they please, gets no shortage of positive re-enforcement from the regular farce that passes for punitive action within the Thai police forces. A case in point (that could have been picked at random from a dozen like it in recent months) is the news last week of two police officers and a state prosecutor being transferred to inactive posts for their alleged link to rhinoceros horn smuggling.
The two uniformed officers and the state prosecutor were recorded on CCTV footage insisting that customs officials should not X-ray scan a suitcase in the possession of two women the men were escorting through a Suvarnabhumi Airport security checkpoint on March 10.
What is perhaps more unusual about this case of police corruption is that customs officers were not intimidated by the officers, who were relying heavily on the power and authority of their uniforms, and insisted on checking the case.
When it was eventually put through the X-ray scanner, the three “law men” and two women were seen on CCTV beating a hasty exit. Why? Because the case was found to contain 21 rhino horns weighing almost 50 kilograms and estimated to be worth some B173 million on the black market.
The three “law men” are now believed to be members of a wildlife trafficking gang.
In a more recent case, a uniformed official from the Royal Forest Department was sacked from his position after he posted photos of dead wild animals on Facebook, boasting that he had hunted and killed them.
When caught out, he told investigating officials that he had been helping local villagers, who had eight dogs with them, harvest their rice. Who was it that killed the animals? The dogs of course, the uniformed official simply took the photos of the animals.
Sadly, it seems that many of the people entrusted to wear uniforms in Thailand enjoy all the power but accept none of the responsibility.