Critical needs for police sector reform in Thailand

Subject: Law
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 Police officers are law workers of the police force sector. They are also referred to as law enforcement officers whose main role is to protect the citizens of a country and their property, both internally and externally (Sawe, 2017). Other obligations of a police officer that are influential to the development include investigations of crimes, answering emergency calls, taking action to help them, and arresting individuals who commit crimes in the society. Duties of police are quite many, just to mention a few. Various challenges are facing the sector which needs a couple of solutions. The Thai police force was ranked second by Ombudsman (a body entrusted with addressing matters of ethics violation by state officers) in terms of the number of complaints filed against them, Chokprajakchat  (2002). This is an indication that the Thai police force requires major reforms in order to provide efficient and effective services. The safety of a nation should not be placed on hands of incompetent people. Therefore, a good background check should always be done when recruiting police officers. Most of the problems experienced in Thai police force have their roots from the recruitment process of the police officers.

Work effectiveness and a challenge-free environment lead to a successful organization that provides the best and quality services. Research conducted by Tengpongsthorn, show that inappropriate procedures and measures to control their activities lead to ineffective services (Tengpongsthorn, 2017). This is because of problems such as political interference into the police sector, poor police recruitment process which involves bribing and false identification, lack of equity and justice in the provision of their services and poor budget allocation. Research conducted on separate occasions, as well as news from the media, reveal that the Thai police sector is not running as required and there is hindrance of the provision of quality services to the citizens they serve (Bangkok, 2017). Therefore, these problems need immediate reform to ensure the police force runs as expected by the public.

Political interference has been identified to be the major factor that is affecting the police sector of Thailand. Research revealed that the soldiers and police officers in Thailand tend to obey the elected civilian authorities due to the partisan connections. According to Fernquest 2012, political interference in the Thai police force has led to its ineffectiveness in service delivery. Pol Colonel Preeda Sathaworn in his research on police and Thailand’s transition towards democracy, says that the police force is a law enforcement tool for an elected government and not for interferences (Sathaworn, 2015). The hierarchical nature and partitioning of the Thai police into many regions, has greatly increased political interferences. This political interference has promoted corruption in the police sector. This includes receiving bribes from the political officers in exchange for special personal favors. Research by the GAN shows that approximately four out of five Thai believe that all police officers are corrupt (GAN, 2017). Since corruption is pervasive in the Thai police force, the force does not deliver its services effectively and efficiently.

Increased corruption in the Thai police force decreases their credibility before the public. The public  believes that the entire police force is a corrupt institution in the state simply due to political entanglement and the entrenched patronage system (Press, 2014). Prentice proposes in his research most police officers enter the slippery slopes to corruption not only through the taking of gifts and petty corruption for personal gain but also through noble cause corruption (Prentice, 2015). Therefore, this problem needs serious reformation to correct the entire police sector and improve the services that are given to the citizens. In order to achieve the expected reforms, Sathaworn in his research says that, the Royal Thai Police should be restructured to reduce the political interference and promote effectiveness and efficiency with the local bodies as well as the entire public (Sathaworn, 2015). Research conducted by the transparency international’s global barometer reported that corruption in the police sector exists though it is secretly committed. Therefore, the Transparency International‘s Global Barometer has put in place a transparency international’ defense and security system program for all countries specifically Thai, where corruption among the police is rampant to advise them on the consequences of corruption.

Additionally, several training services on integrity building have been offered to the senior officers as part of their initiative to stop corruption in the police sector. Another approach that can reform Thai police force is through institutional reform. According to Haanstaad (2013), Thai police institutional structures are intricately tied to Thai political structures. Therefore, to eradicate political interference, Thai policing institution should be restructured. The police institution should be independent with strong internal leadership and control. A study in different occasion supports that the stronger the internal controls the real the change but if only combined with other internalization of new ethical standards (GAN, 2017). Community policing has been proposed as another reform. It is an effective method of tackling corruption in the society and institutions such as the police sector. It overcomes the mistrust, which exists between the police officers and the community. Setting a better and strong National Anti-corruption Commission (NACC) that should ensure no loopholes for the police officers to take bribes (Teixeira, Pimenta, Maia, & Moreira, 2015). They should also ensure that actions are taken against the corrupt political leaders and police officers. The journalism and media at large should play their investigative role to reveal the hidden secrets and evidence of corrupt officers to ensure an end to corruption.

In the quest to reform and bring back the police sector of Thailand to its strongholds, there is need to address the problem of the police education, the required code of conduct and the recruitment process. According to academic research involving interviews with the members of the PRC, it was reported that the recruitment process, nominations, transfers, and promotions of the police officers are greatly affected by corruption and nepotism (Prentice, 2015). The police qualifications and education standards that are required are of low quality. For instance, education requirement of a police officer in Thailand is that one must pass an examination that is offered as a test of one’s knowledge and level of education attained. After submission of the application form and any other relevant documents needed, an individual is given an examination, and if he or she passes, then one qualifies for an interview and a physical test. The police sector officials carry out this thorough process, but they end up getting unqualified police officers.  Investigations that have been carried out reveal that the individual who falsely qualifies for the posts use fake profiles, false identification passports, cheat in examinations, and/ or buy the exam answers or results of the examination. Worse is that some individuals hire knowledgeable people to do the examinations on their behalf and then share the answers with the rest of the members. In the end, the individuals get the posts they applied for, but they did not deserve them. They fit into jobs they do not qualify.

In order to reform the Thai police force, Poothakool 2014 states that the Thai policing system and model need to be improved. He states that the Roya Thai police follow the colonial model whereby policing was centralized and militaristic. This model has facilitated corruption in the recruitment and training process of the Thai police. To end this problem, Poothakool outlines the key factors in the democratic model used by US, UK, Canada and Australia that should be adopted in the Thai policing system. He argues that the Thai policing model should transform from the colonial policing system and embrace the democratic model with a major emphasis on administration, public participation, transparency, training and recruitment in the police force. The currently revised Thai royal police effectiveness as revealed by Thai Royal Police has worked to ensure that the effectiveness rule B.E 2547 is well incorporated during the recruitment of officers. This section consists of 10 indicators such as responsibility, quality of work, knowledge and critical thinking, punctuality, willingness, cooperation and ability to manage, initiative and compliance. This qualification should be strictly followed to ensure no unqualified officers fit into the jobs. Another solution is that there should be an inclusion of a thorough assessment and investigation process through research to verify the validity of the provided documents of an applicant regarding their background and eligibility to take an examination seriously. The staff in charge of the recruitment process should uphold professional and ethical codes of conduct. Their dignity and integrity should be trusted to ensure no corruption takes place during the recruitment process. Harsh and thorough punishments should be given to those found taking bribes from applicants (Jensema, Alonso-Fradejas, Liu, Salerno, & Xu, 2015).  For instance, Admiral Phajun Tamprateep, a NRSA member and former aide to Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda, was found buying position in the police force and was highly charged by the law court (AP, 2016). The Thai constitution has set laws and regulations that prohibit the use of false and fake passports for identification among its citizens.

The other problem that has been identified as a challenge in the police sector in Thai police force is lack of equity and justice in administering their services to the citizens. All human beings are equal and therefore, deserve to be treated with equality, equity, and justice before the law. However, in our societies, it does not seem to be that way at all. The police officers tend to prevail over the rest of the people in the society. Due to the above reason, the police have been referred to as ‘the bargaining authority’ (GAN, 2017). This is because they use their position as an advantage over others and exercise their authority for personal gains and benefits, committing unlawful acts. For instance, some police officers who go against traffic rules deliberately tend to protect and defend themselves by claiming that they are doing their duties. According to Neubauer (2015), the Thai police use their power to exort money from tourists. The police officers harrass tourists in the name of drug usage and at the end of it ask for bribes instead of taking legal actions. In addressing the problem of police impunity, there should be reforms like banning of special consideration for state officers who commit crime and internal investigation for police officers who commit a crime or unlawful things should be done and legal actions taken. The law enforcements that apply to any other citizen should also be used to convict the police agents who break the set laws as well. The process of investigation should be exposed to the public to increase transparency and accountability. The regulation which states that any police agents who are found misbehaving and using their emotions to perform their obligations should be dismissed from their jobs and banned from the government careers (Jensema et al., 2015) should be enacted. For instance, a provincial officer who was found demanding bribes from police officers who wished to get promotions was remove from office, (GAN, 2017).

The budget allocation of resources within the police sector is another major issue. Corruption in the police force and lack of proper supervision has led to mismanagement of public resources. The government allocates a given amount of money to the Thai police force for development purposes. Due to corruption and mismanagement, these funds do not achieve their intended goals. The ineffectiveness of the Thai police services is greatly contributed by lack of proper resources to achieve the required services. According to a report by Khaosod, high-ranking police officers embezzled money that was supposed to purchase police motorcycles, Trimek (2014). Faulty motorcycles were bought because they were cheaper. With faulty motorcycles, the police force cannot achieve effective and efficient services. This is an indication that the funds allocated for development of Thai police sector are not used appropriately. The police sectors have been involved in many scandals of corruption.This is because of poor management and embezzlement of funds. In another instance, four police officers from Nakhon Phanom were convicted of embezzlement of police development funds involving 3.5 million (McConnell, 2015).

A government survey by a Thai researcher revealed that the local police were the most corrupt administrative officers in 20124. When Prime Minister of Thailand, Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government was in power, there was an allegation of the embezzlement of funds which were meant for building 400 police stations (Press, 2017). Therefore, the rate of mismanagement of funds in the Thai police force is beyond the scales. They need immediate solutions to reform the police sector. Some of the reforms include budget preparation, which involves allocating resources wisely with integrity and equality. Fiscal and financial reports on management and utilization of funds should be done presented to the public to keep them aware of the management of the funds. The national anti-corruption association should step into place to ensure appropriate utilization of funds. The officers found committing or stealing the developmental funds should be punished by being removed out of office and charged by the law.

Comparison of the Effectiveness and Efficiency of Thailand police with the rest of the world

To draw a comparison of effectiveness and efficiency that is provided by the Thai police and that of the rest of other nation like Spain, Thai police sector seems to be lagging behind. For instance, Spain has various organizations which maintain law and order in the state (Watts, 2015). There exist the local police who are located in the Spain cities and towns to prevent crimes, settling minor incidents, and traffic jam control. The guard civil with a military status to patrol rural areas like highways and ports to prevent offenses in those places (Ivković & Haberfeld, 2015). There exist also the national police that deal with crimes and ensure public order in big towns and cities. It includes special anti-riot system. It is making progress, and many advancements have been made. There are specialist officers that have been put in place with powers to arrest those people that try to evade tax payment, smuggle goods, and commit international crimes. While in Thailand, the police sector is only composed of the national police who are trusted with their tradition, concepts, culture, skills, and training. They are hierarchical regarding the organization; they have no specialization in a special sector like in towns or local areas. The police forces are known to maintain law and order in the whole country (Watts, 2015). Therefore, no notable advancement have been observed in the police sector of Thailand. Several types of police officers who are specialized in different sectors should be developed. The police sector in Thailand should be decentralized and specialized education and training be given to different groups of police officers. Each group should be assigned specific roles pertaining to the security, safety and wellbeing of the Thailand citizens.

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In conclusion, the police sector is a very sensitive area that is trusted with the citizens’ safety and protection. Therefore, there is need to ensure that it runs smoothly, with accountability and transparency of the highest order. Problems like political interference, poor police recruitment process, lack of equity and justice and poor budget allocation, have been identified to prevent citizens from getting the services they require. When a police system is influenced by political figures, then its accountability is affected. The police force should be independent from any political affiliations in order to deliver the safety and security of its people. Recruitment of unqualified police officers have made the Thai police service to experience rampant cases of unethical behaviors among the police officers. Failure to recruit qualified and responsible officers has fueled cases of corruption in the Thai police force. Rampant corruption cases and embezzlement of public funds have led to poor service delivery in the police force. The funds allocated for development of the police force have been mismanaged instead of using the funds to provide tools and equipment to be used by the police officers in their daily call of protecting the citizens.

The policing structures and models should be reviewed in order to ensure that the police force is not affiliated with political structures. The police force should be independent to prevent any political interference. Political interference hinders transparency and accountability of police officers. Politicians’ demands favors from police officers and this compromises the integrity of the Thai police officers. To ensure and promote equity and justice in their operations, the Thai police force should embrace the democratic model. This model promotes transparency and public participation in the police sector. Public participation means that the public can scrutinize the police service delivery and in case of the public detects integrity issues in the police force; they can report the concern to the relevant authorities. Empowering the voice of the public will ensure that the police officers uphold justice in their actions. If police officers are just in their duties, then equity and fairness will be achieved. The democratic model also promotes effective and efficient police recruitment process by doing a background check on every police recruit and ensuring the required qualifications are met by every recruit. The process recruitment process should be reviewed to ensure that quality education standards are set and transparency measures are put in place. Though there have been attempts to reform the Thai police force, Poothakool (2014) states that the process has not been fruitful. In order for the reforms to be implemented successfully, all the stakeholders should be willing to support the reforms.

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