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Law Experts Say Police Reform Well Over Due in Thailand

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Law Experts Say Police Reform Well Over Due in Thailand

Two fatal crashes involving Thai police officers and their family members driving high speed in supercars in Bangkok have enraged the Thai public. A debate has also been sparked about the nature of accountability of police and their power in the kingdom.

A Pakistani national, 40, lost his life on a bridge on March 12 after a Porsche suddenly changed lanes and struck his motorbike.

The Porsche was driven by Mr. Pornmet Songmetta, the son of former Deputy National Police Chief Gen. Wirachai Songmetta. Gen. Songmetta is also one of Thailand’s richest men. In 2021, Forbes estimated that he was worth approximately US$940 million.

His son is expected to face charges after his blood-alcohol level exceeded the legal limit. According to a police source, the dead man’s family has already accepted a compensation payment from the Songmetta family.

Just two weeks earlier, a young doctor, Waraluck Supawatjariyakul, died after being hit by a Ducati motorcycle driven by an off-duty policeman as she crossed a street in front of her hospital.

The defendant, Norrawit Buadok, was charged with nine counts of reckless driving causing death, speeding, and failure to give pedestrians the right-of-way.

The verdict, which the accused can appeal, will be announced on April 25. He is presently out on bail.

Law Experts Say Police Reform Well Over Due in Thailand

Is the RTP really protecting the public?

The death of Dr. Waraluck has triggered demands for better road safety in a country where last week alone 38 people died from road-related accidents.

This case raised questions about the role of the police in protecting the public and delivering justice, especially when the alleged offender is within their ranks.

Having known Waraluck since medical school, doctor Marin Satawiriya is a witness to how law enforcement violates the law despite a pedestrian adhering to the law.

Until I lost my dear friend, I didn’t realize how profound the impact of this patronage system would be on my life.”

Over 10,000 followers of a Facebook page called Rabbit Crossing have expressed their long-held angst with the police, while more than 55,000 people signed a petition urging the government to toughen road safety laws.

One commenter stated, “We cannot entrust our lives to those who are paid to protect us.”.

Law Experts Say Police Reform Well Over Due in Thailand

Millionaire police officers

In Thailand, high-ranking RTP officials declare assets of millions and often hold positions of political influence. Several former prime ministers, including the billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, were officers at one time and sit on the boards of some of the country’s largest companies.

Some say their power blurs the lines and facilitates abuse and corruption – with family members and friends often claiming RTP networks to speed up business deals or claim special treatment when trouble arises.

Paul Chambers, a lecturer at Naresuan University, says that the police culture has changed very little in Thailand. “Those who are in power are always protected from investigative scrutiny.”

Thais are well acquainted with examples of power imbalances. The heir to the Red Bull fortune mowed down a Bangkok policeman high on cocaine in 2012. However, he escaped prosecution because of an alleged police cover-up.

Last year, Thitisan Utthanaphon, a well-connected senior police officer – nicknamed “Joe Ferrari” for his fast car collection – was accused of wrapping plastic bags around the neck of a drug suspect, causing death.

Police protected by politicians

Police protected by politicians

Although both cases horrified the public, there was little hope that justice would be served. The verdict in the Ferrari case will be announced in June. His lawyer denies that he murdered anyone. Charges against Vorayuth Yoovidhya, Red Bull’s heir, are expiring as the statute of limitations approaches one by one.

The problem with the Royal Thai Police is structural, law experts say.

Policing is not done by consent but by politicians. “So the people are those who pay the price,” said Krisanaphong Poothakul, an ex-policeman, and leading criminologist.

“Power and interests: two words that explain Thai police culture’s reluctance to change. Instead of reforming the organization, whoever comes into power uses it for preserving their power and interests.”

As a result, more people are using social media to demand accountability from the police.

A CCTV recording of Dr. Waraluck’s last moments spread across social media, generating anger and outrage and putting the policemen under scrutiny.

My friend Marin once asked me this: “Are we going to agree that those who have more power and status than us are entitled to enjoy their privileged lives without being held accountable for them?”.”

The CTNNews editorial team comprises seasoned journalists and writers dedicated to delivering accurate, timely news coverage. They possess a deep understanding of current events, ensuring insightful analysis. With their expertise, the team crafts compelling stories that resonate with readers, keeping them informed on global happenings.

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