BANGKOK – Thailand’s National Police Chief Pol Gen Somyot Pumpanmuang, has revealed to the Bangkok Post that a special police unit will be set up to target foreign transnational criminal gangs operating in Thailand or using the country as a shelter.
Pol Gen Somyot Pumpanmuang said the new unit would be formed as part of his goal of improving the Royal Thai Police Force’s efficiency at tackling crimes committed by transnational gangs.
Pol Gen Somyot said “At the moment no existing units of the Royal Thai Police deal directly and systematically with transnational crimes.”
Standard practice is for an officer involved in a case involving foreign criminals to seek cooperation from the RTP’s foreign affairs division, he said.
But there was no specific unit that was leading the fight to curb transnational gangs operating in Thailand.
Some foreign criminals and gangs consider Thailand to be a haven, including paedophiles, financial con men, electronic card skimmers, robbers, drug traffickers and terrorists.
They escaped the law in their countries to hide in Thailand and even establish gangs here, particularly in tourist areas like Pattaya and Phuket.
According to a recent study by the Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ), at least 22 transnational gangs have chosen Thailand as an operating base.
They come from places like Russia, Romania, Germany, Columbia, Mexico, Guatemala and Peru.
Pol Gen Somyot said the new police section, the transnational crime suppression centre, that will combat transnational crime will take shape this month.
The Central Investigation Bureau which has authority to make arrests anywhere in the country has been assigned to compile information on transnational gangs and their activities in Thailand. Pol Maj Gen Thitirach Nongharnphithak, who becomes acting CIB chief on Jan 15, will head the project.
When completed, the information compiled will be kept in the database of the new transnational crime unit.
The new body will serve as the command centre for the RTP when working with other countries to track transnational crime suspects and suppress transnational crimes in general.
Deputy police chief Pol Gen Jakthip Chaijinda is selecting officers for the unit who have sound experience and knowledge in coordinating with embassies in Thailand.
The need for a special police unit has become more urgent in recent years because of a growing number of foreigners have either fled to Thailand after committing a crime elsewhere or intentionally come here to commit a crime.
Pol Gen Somyot stated that because Thailand is an open and liveable country, many want to come here. We have a lot of tourist attractions, good food, fresh air and hospitality to offer.
Aside from moving ahead with its efforts on transnational crime, the police aim to step up their crackdowns on other types of crime like murder, theft, sexual assault and drug offences.
One priority is the suppression of human trafficking and illegal migrant labour, Pol Gen Somyot said.
It was government policy to tackle the migrant labour issue as the US and the EU are closely monitoring human trafficking and the migrant situation in Thailand.
Pol Gen Somyot said the threat of terrorism was another police objective, even though the RTP realises Thailand is not a particular target. There is no room for complacency, he said.
The RTP also plans to maintain its fierce suppression of drug trafficking.
One more task the police force had to accomplish, he said, was to restore public trust in it. One approach would be to improve the traffic situation, not only in Bangkok but in its surrounding provinces.
“The police are trying to resolve traffic problems with the help of communications and technology such as a remotely controlled system for switching traffic lights,” the police chief said.
This month, about 300 intersections where traffic officers switch the traffic lights manually will be equipped with the remote control system.
Pol Gen Somyot said moves were also afoot to improve the quality of life of law enforcement officers. Almost 50 officers have committed suicide in the past year, due largely to financial hardship.
“Some people may not have heard that about 2,000 police officers are facing bankruptcy suits by financial institutions after failing to repay their debts,” he said.