People may soon be forced to serve in the police under a plan being proposed in Thailand. The idea is to extend military conscription to the civilian police force. Police said it’ll cost less than normal recruiting, and boosting numbers will improve efficiency and help end a culture of bribery and corruption.
It’s an open secret that some police officers in Thailand extort money from the public. Officers are secretly filmed demanding cash from motorists in Bangkok for traffic offenses real or imagined. Other officers take a cut from illegally-run bars and massage parlors.
The police have a poor reputation both for honesty and their ability. A scheme’s been introduced to reward police if they turn down a bribe.
Senior officers blame low pay and a shortage of manpower. But they’re now hoping to boost their numbers by 10,000 a year, through the introduction of compulsory conscription.
“The normal recruiting has to spend a lot of budget, a lot of money to take care of people until they’re aged 60, and after retirement we have to take care of them. But conscription is just a short term for two years. We will recruit young police to help the main police,” said Prawut Thawornsiri from the Royal Thai Police.
This criminologist said police need better training and more resources if they’re to reform. At present officers earn around $250 a month, which is only just above the minimum wage. Many even have to buy their own weapons and equipment.
“Police constable get very low pay. They have to buy their pistol, they have to buy their own car, computer, notebook, radio and so on. I used to talk to one guy from the FBI in Thailand, and he asked me why the police in Thailand get very low pay from the state,” said Professor Krissanapong Pootrakul from Rangsit Univerisity, Bangkok.
“Some believe this is a move by Thailand’s new leaders to de-politicise the police. Many existing officers are loyal to a former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. A government run by his sister Yingluck Shinawatra was removed from power by the army in May. The new administration is expected to support the conscription plan as one way to bring new blood into the police,” said Martin Lowe from Royal Thai Police Headquarter.
The scheme’s already been agreed ‘in principle’ by the interim assembly and is expected to be in force for the annual conscription call-up next May. Many hope it marks the beginning of a concerted effort in Thailand to put ‘order’ back into law and order.
CCTV America’s Martin Lowe reported this story from Thailand.