Khun Wassana Nanuam's article on “police reform lacking sincerity” highlights various issues not just for the boys in brown of Thailand but also Britain's boys in blue:
While adding an extra layer of debate on the military-police roles and interfaces.
Thailand's new Committee of 36 comprising police and academics and military as instigated by PM Prayut certainly does seem to be making all the right moves in police reform.
Thai readers may be unfamiliar with almost febrile atmosphere in UK over the regular Koh Tao deaths, wide publicity of Thailand as a dangerous tourism destination and Andy Hall and National Fruit Co. human rights cases and the Red Bull cop-killer case.
The default position, unfairly in my view, is one of instant and total criticism of Thai police.
Anecdotally in my (few) experiences of Thai police at road blocks or lost credit cards I've always been met with unfailing politeness if not embarrassment at my feeble knowledge of UK football. While Thai quirks such as Police Hospitals and Nurses are rather baffling.
Corruption is far more endemic in Kent with the police drowning under a tidal wave of dodgy Caribbean tax haven companies and council fraud with Pleasurama and Dreamland megaprojects and corporate manslaughter with Infratil directors, now of Wellington Airport, facing extradition.
Certainly the danger of a Costa del Crime culture that affected Southern Spain with British criminals on the run to the sun could infect Phuket and Pattaya without effective policing eg the recent arrest of UK drug lord Jonathon Moorby on the run in Thailand, or the arrest in BKK of Manston-Ostend gunrunner Viktor Bout.
I've urged for example a Kent Police International dept to focus on ASEAN with clear and fast links to Interpol and Europol as well as all 43 UK police forces. Whether focusing on UK criminals abroad or terrorism or stranded citizens.
Kent citizen Joshua French featured in my MP manifesto and now released from Death Row Congo and concerns over the murder of Kent's George Low and cross-border problems in Cyprus with the murderers fleeing to Turkey:
And there’s a wider debate on London's Boris water cannon - still stored on Kent territory and apt with Hamburg G20 riots now - versus water sprinklers in tower blocks.
While UK’s 5,000 guncops, in effect a Police Army, and redeployment of Special Branch the political police to counter-terrorism, with terror attacks on Parliament and Borough market, and upto 3,000 regular troops on the streets in aid to the civil power (with questions over what the other 76k troops are for) and shortage of detectives raises questions over who does what.
While Doitung must be a huge feather in the cap of Thai police in the Golden Triangle and ready to roll out to the Wa and Shan regions of Myanmar if not Helmand.
For surely the 36 Committee will have failed if it's merely used to truncheon Thai police into submission rather than highlighting reforms and success and best practice? And surely ACT amongst other civil society groups, and even Surin Pitsuwan in his Bangkok Governor campaign ushering in the beginning of a return to full democracy in 2108, should have a voice in the process?
While the 36 Committee is unusual to farang eyes in having General Boonsang a West Point (why not Sandhurst or Hendon too?) graduate military man in charge of policing scrutiny where the position is reversed in UK - albeit with the exception of Deepcut barracks as below.
##Kent Policing noodling##
In UK slightly different approaches have taken place in recent years with each of the 43 UK police forces having their own elected Police Commissioner (previously unelected) to scrutinise the police and hire and fire the Chief Constable.
It's proved something of a success with reservations providing greater public scrutiny of the forces. But very low election turnouts - as low as 15% in many cases. While the UK Commissioners have led to cronyism and padding of offices, and even concerns of going native and simply cheerleading the police forces, and party politics muddying the waters.
That mitigated to some extent by HMIC a separate civil service inspectorate of all the UK police forces.
In Kent though the Police Commissioner got off to an abysmal start with Ann Barnes the previous unelected commissioner being newly-elected to a car crash TV series of dogs in the office, a mountain of Pot Noodles - not a Thai curry brand unfortunately - that would shame the rice pledgers and that Kent Police are still working their way through, and the infamous Onion of Priorities.
And if Kent Police are struggling on weaving their way through the political jungle of the Manston-Infratil crimes committed by politicians and civil servants in removing monitors and faking pollution and cancer data, then Surrey Police are also caught between the devil and the deep blue sea in the Deepcut scandal.
Deepcut army barracks saw 4 young soldiers shot between 1995 and 2002 supposedly in separate suicides. One supposed suicide with five(!) bullets in him.
Now a 2nd (new) inquest or Sean Benton is opening in January and detailed in Private Eye magazine (available in Asia Books) plus BBC Panorama with concerns not just in the interplay between Surrey Police and the Military Police over jurisdiction at the barracks.
But astonishingly also QC John Beggs - criticised over his involvement in the Hillsboro scandal with South Yorkshire police - now hired again by Surrey Police with public funds to speak for them, and essentially browbeat family witnesses on the rates and in the public's courts.
It's astonishing that in the UK mainland and in peacetime there would be any confusion over the primacy of civilian police in military policing, especially for murders.
While a swirl of rumours around war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq and Bloody Sunday Northern Ireland and lack of military police or civilian police rigour have resulted in reduced sentences for the Royal Marines Sergeant Blackman.
And now a Sunday Times expose last week, and UK's largest-ever Military Police investigation, on war crimes by a rogue SAS unit in Afghanistan acting as its own kill-squad and running amok and planting guns on executed Taliban, or civilians:
All of which has undertones not of Thailand's Deep South troubles and interplay of military and police in counter-insurgency terrorism, but more the My Lai and Speedy Express systemic massacres of the USA military in the Vietnam War.
While persistent unsolved crimes such as police corruption around the axe murder of private detective Daniel Morgan would have Robert Peel turning in his grave:
If the 36 Committee has the potential for root and branch reform of Thailand's police then as as Khun Wassana points out surely a lack of sincerity would hold back more effective policing and Greater UK and Thailand cooperation?