The rotten system I

31 08 2021

In a recent post we wrote about how a rotten system operates in Thailand, allowing corruption, disappearance, torture, and murder in the interest of the “good people,” the loyalists.

Strikingly, a report in the Bangkok Post further illustrates how this decayed system operates. The story is about Pol Maj Gen Phumin Pumpanmuang and the Special Operations Police he commands.

Our studied cynicism is on display below. We are not suggesting that Phumin is corrupt, but we observe that many of the posts he has held are coveted by the corrupt.

Somyos and his loot

If Pol Maj Gen Phumin’s family name is familiar, it is because former national police chief, Somyos Phumpanmuang, is his uncle. We have posted plenty on the uncle who was corrupt – unusually wealthy – and univestigated by the state’s anti-corruption bodies.

The report says that the SOP is “a new unit within the Royal Thai Police whose broad remit ranges from combatting drugs to protecting the Crown.” It is said to be “little known.”  We don’t think this is the Ratchawallop Police Retainers, King’s Guard 904 mentioned in previous posts, although readers might correct us.

In the report, Pol Maj Gen Phumin says the (in)famous surname “is both a blessing and a curse.” He said he has had “to prove that he is able to rise through the ranks on his own merit.” He seems to imply that there’s a meritocracy in the police. In fact, nepotism is common in the police and the military. At the senior level it is almost a rule.

The nepotism begins early. Phumin says “that as a young child, he would tag along with Pol Gen Somyot, then a mid-ranking investigator, on missions.” Later, when “his uncle became the deputy chief investigator at Phra Khanong station, Pol Maj Gen Phumin recalled, he was allowed to join the team on a gambling den raid.”

He was socialized with both the police gangs and the criminal gangs.

Like almost all of the top brass, he attended the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School before going on to the Royal Police Cadet Academy. These academies instill the necessary royalism, adherence to hierarchy, and establish “class” relations that allow for money-making, favors, and impunity.

After graduating, Phumin was assigned to the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, “where he learned the ropes for two years.” It is difficult to single out many straight coppers in that Bureau, where corruption and thuggery reign. He went on to the Marine Police Division, long in cahoots with smugglers.

Pol Maj Gen Phumin was also used as a decoy in a sting which went south when he was a young officer in Suphan Buri. After his cover was compromised, the suspect fired at him, but missed. It was there that he killed his first “suspect.”

He continued to the “Metropolitan Police Division 1, where he was involved in stamping out drugs.” The police are better known for managing the supply of drugs. He went on to the Crime Suppression Division, and was posted to Phuket, one of the most lucrative posts for police bosses, and one that requires lots of political support or a big bribe to get the post. He became “head of the island’s marine and tourist police branches.” Those positions are highly sought after for the wealth they create.

When he became SOP commander, he was promoted “to the rank of police major general.” It was also a position that must have the support of the king as the “unit also provides security to the King and members of the royal family.” Think elephant ticket:

His rise to the SOP’s top seat triggered heated debate. In the previous no-confidence session in parliament, an MP from the Move Forward Party suggested his rapid career advancement was the result of a blessing from “the higher institution”.

Pol Maj Gen Phumin insists he “earned his promotions through hard work.” He adds:

I know I have what it takes to be where I am…. There are quite a few anti-monarchists around. The SOP’s roles also include instilling the right understanding [about the monarchy’s closeness to people]….

Although the SOP is a new unit in the RTP, it has more than 1,500 personnel already. Its officers undergo extensive training, including anti-terrorism courses, tactical parachuting and sharp shooting.

You see how the rotten system works, all the way to the top. Men like Phumin will do whatever the king orders, legal or not.


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