Decentralisation key to police reform: Police Watch

After almost three years of little progress, the Thai police have announced that they will not resist if the junta leader uses his absolute power to reform the police force, while a civil society group points out that decentralisation is the key to police reform.  

On 1 February 2017, Police Watch (PW), a civil society group campaigning for police reform, issued a statement urging Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, to decentralise the administration of the Royal Thai Police (RTP).

“The centralised administrative system monopolises interrogation work in a single department. ... This makes it easier for high-ranking officers to accept bribes from law offenders,” reads part of the group statement.

The group stated that the administrative authority of the police should be decentralised to the provincial level in order to cut bureaucratic red tape, increasing the efficiency of the police work.

More radically, they suggested that an independent interrogation department should be established under the Ministry of Justice to interrogate suspects of crimes instead of the police.

They also urged the authorities to amend Thailand’s Criminal Procedure Code in order to allow public prosecutors to monitor the interrogation of suspects by police officers.  

On the same day, Pol Col Kritsana Pattanacharoen, Deputy Spokesperson of the RTP, said that the police will accept the decision of the junta leader on whether or not to use Section 44 of the Interim Constitution for reforming the RTP.

He added that the police laid out a 10-point police reform policy many years ago; one point was to make promotions and appointments of officers more transparent.  

Kritsana added that the use of Section 44 to handle this matter will not be considered as a violation of the authority of the RTP Commissioner-General, before contradicting himself by saying that promotions and appointments of the police were transparent in the past.

On 30 February, the junta leader announced at Government House in Bangkok that although police reform is necessary, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has as yet no plan to use Section 44 for this.

At the time of the 2014 coup d’état, the NCPO stated that police reform was one of the top priorities of the regime. Almost three years later, however, little progress has been made.

A mid-ranking police officer who asked to remain anonymous told Prachatai that the top-down use of absolute power by the NCPO to reform the police force will not bring about positive changes.

“They are just paying lip-service. They only care about staying in power and don’t really care about reforming the force,” he told Prachatai.