Need to cut political interference in Thailand's police force

Policemen look on as supporters of anti-coup activists gather outside a police station, cheering them on and holding up photos of the protesters being pulled away by police last month, in Bangkok on June 24, 2015.

The Police force should be restructured to reduce political interference and promote efficiency and partnership with local bodies, a senior officer at the Royal Thai Police's Office of Human Resources told a recent Bangkok forum.

Presenting his research on "Police and Thailand's Transition towards Democracy", Pol Colonel Preeda Sathaworn said the police force was a law-enforcement tool for an elected government and a key factor to ensure a strong democracy.

The July 28 event was hosted as part of the Coordinating Centre for Policy Research's Redesigning Political Institution research project and sponsored by the Thailand Research Fund's National Policy and Transnational Relations Division.

Preeda went on to say that several aspects of Thailand's police force had been problematic, and his research aimed to shed light on the force's procedures and adjustments. He pointed out that though the police force's key role is keeping law and order, it faces interference from political leaders who come and go according to the political power struggles. If the power struggle is unresolved, then the police is used to gain political advantage, he said.

Hence, it is necessary to create a structure that will cut down political interference, he said, adding that human resource management and financing should also be decentralised to boost effectiveness. He also said that internal agencies' operations should be reviewed in order to reduce redundancy. A transparent administration system will give lower ranking officers freedom in their work, which will help them become more responsible toward local communities, he said.

Preeda pointed out that removing interference in police human-resource management was necessary, especially when it comes to the top positions. He also suggested a power-check system be put in place for the Office of Police Commission and the Office of Board of Royal Thai Police.

He highlighted proper training for police officers, saying that an improved recruitment system and better funding for inquiry and investigation departments was necessary, as was better wages. In order to facilitate the delivery of justice, he said, police officers in charge of inquiries require training, so they have better knowledge, professional standards, ethics, problem-solving skills and a better system to complete their inquiries. He also proposed that forensic work be decentralised on a regional basis.

Police officers should also be encouraged to build a partnership with local communities and administrative bodies, as well as be better prepared to handle transnational criminals, he added.

Explaining that it was important for political leaders and the police force to have shared goals, a mechanism promoting participation from the political sector, police force, public sector and stakeholders also should be introduced. He said all plans of action should have clear objectives, guidelines and time frames.