Controlling the police

6 08 2009

As PPT readers know, there has been considerable political wheeling and dealing concerning Police chief Patcharawat Wongsuwan. Now Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has appointed a stand-in while Patcharawat is on leave. Well, maybe he’s on leave. He showed up for work even after a caretaker police chief had been appointed.

The Nation (5 August 2009: “PM names caretaker police chief”) reported that Police General Wichien Potposri has been appointed. The Nation reports that Wichien is seen as “relatively impartial in handling politically related events so there is a chance that he could be made national police chief once Patcharawat retires.”

The Bangkok Post (4 August 2009: “PM appoints acting police chief”) reported Abhisit as saying that he had appointed Wichien “based on his seniority and appreciable work record.”

A couple of points to make here. First, as Bangkok Pundit notes, Wichien was previously head of the Office of the Royal Court Security Police. Second, under the military-backed government of privy councilor-cum-prime minister Surayud Chulanond, Wichien was responsible for working with provincial governors to “curb possible violence throughout Thailand.” In other words, he worked with the junta – the Council for National Security – to crack down on potential demonstrations opposing the military-backed government, including limiting the freedom of movement of rural people. During the 2007 general election, he was “in charge of advance balloting.”

All of this means that the Democrat Party is appointing a trusted policeman. Why is this so important?

One answer is to look at PPT’s post on Chai-Anan Samudavanija, the PAD ideologue, who says that the “police are 100% for Thaksin and the red shirts.”

Another answer lies in the promotions and seniority problem Abhisit is trying to deal with. This is why the “prime minister … said a police reshuffle list under the new organisational structure of the Royal Thai Police Office would be put on hold. He would rather leave the list to be finalized by the next police chief. Pol Gen Patcharawat is due to retire at the end of September.” This is also why Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has “ordered the Police Commission to a meeting soon to review the list, which involves high-level police officers. Mr Suthep denied a report that the reshuffle would be reviewed because some officers were not satisfied that they were excluded, saying it was only a rumour. He insisted that no politicians had interfered in the making of the list.”

That would seem highly unlikely, but Abhisit and Suthep need to avoid such allegations as such interference is unlawful.

Abhisit and Suthep are trying to prevent the rise of Police General “Prieopan Damapong, a deputy national police chief, who is the senior-most officer. However, Prieopan is the older brother of Pojaman, the ex-wife of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and is current on assignment at provincial police units.”

In other words, impartiality has nothing to do with these actions. Rather, the aim is to appoint political allies and try to take control of the police.

This was tried before, when Seripisut Temiyavet (originally Seri Temiyavet) was appointed under the CNS, but who was not always politically reliable and got into trouble over lese majeste issues..


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6 08 2009
New: Democrat meddling emphasizes political loyalty « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Take Action New: Controlling the police […]

21 08 2009
Updated: Chuan says Abhisit is humiliated « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] link to our earlier posts (here, here, here, here and here) and also to the spate of stories in the English-language press (here, here, […]

15 08 2010
New police chief « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] his man Police General Wichien Potposri head the police force. One of PPT’s earlier posts is here. The best discussion of the appointment of Wichien, after almost a year of waiting the Police Board […]