Opinion: Reforming the police can be an easy win for Srettha

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In recent years, Thailand has made significant strides in various sectors, showcasing economic growth, cultural richness, and technological advancement. Yet oftentimes, our privately-led initiatives that move the country forward tend to be let down if not hampered by our public policy and organs. Poorly thought government policy, restrictive, illogical regulations, and outright corruption threaten to undermine our progress. For small businesses, nowhere is this more true than their interactions with the Royal Thai Police. It is a cross-aisle issue that unites nearly every Thai, we all understand the need for comprehensive police reform.

The Thai police force, like many others around the world, has faced scrutiny for corruption, abuse of power, and a lack of accountability. Addressing these challenges demands a collective effort from policymakers, law enforcement agencies, and society as a whole.

Thailand, like numerous other countries, has witnessed instances of police corruption and abuse of power. These incidents not only erode public trust but also tarnish the image of law enforcement agencies. There have been many notable cases involving police officers exploiting their positions for personal gain, engaging in illegal activities, and even collaborating with organized crime. Such behavior not only undermines the rule of law but also hampers efforts by everyday people trying to make a living or trying to run a business.

Looking beyond Thailand, several countries have successfully implemented police reforms, providing valuable lessons for our nation. For instance, countries like the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Germany have adopted community-oriented policing models, emphasizing collaboration between law enforcement officers and local communities. These initiatives have fostered trust, reduced crime rates, and improved overall public safety.

In South Korea, the police force underwent a transformation that involved increased transparency, stringent oversight mechanisms, and enhanced training programs. As a result, South Korea’s police force became more accountable, responsive, and focused on serving the community. Similarly, Japan’s community policing system, known as “Koban,” has been lauded for its effectiveness in fostering strong ties between the police and citizens, creating safer neighborhoods and reducing crime.

However, implementing such reforms requires courage, especially among politicians who must navigate complex political landscapes and vested interests. Policymakers need to confront the challenges head-on, prioritize the interests of the citizens over political considerations, and take bold steps toward restructuring law enforcement agencies. Courageous leadership entails acknowledging the existing issues within the police force and demonstrating a genuine commitment to change. It is one issue that the Pheu Thai government, led by new Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, can address without drawing too much flak. If they are unwilling to confront the business interests and soldiery within their coalition, may be this is not a bridge too far.

To do this, Srettha and his government must begin by fostering a culture of accountability. This is paramount. Establishing independent oversight bodies with the authority to investigate complaints against law enforcement officers ensures transparency and fairness. These bodies can play a crucial role in holding officers accountable for their actions, thereby bolstering public confidence in the police force.

Investing in training and education for police officers is essential. Training programs should focus not only on enhancing technical skills but also accountability and professionalism. Investing and increasing officer’s salary is also a necessity. The average Thai policeman makes 15,000-20,000 baht per month, hardly enough to survive and raise of a family on regardless of government workers subsidies.

To end corruption and abuse of power, we must make being a policeman a coveted position for the right reasons and not the wrong ones.

Reforming Thailand’s police force is an urgent and necessary endeavor. Learning from successful international examples, policymakers must have the courage to challenge the status quo, implement transparent oversight mechanisms, and invest in comprehensive training programs. The transformation of the police force will not only enhance public safety but also reinforce the foundations of the economy and the rule of law in Thailand. It is time for our leaders to exhibit the courage required to make this essential change and pave the way for a more just and secure society for all.


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