Thailand’s honest cops urged to protest after corruption outed in parliament

A flyer for a Tuesday rally inviting cops frustrated the patronage system. Image: Ratsadon group
A flyer for a Tuesday rally inviting cops frustrated the patronage system. Image: Ratsadon group

Police corruption will be the focus of a rally called for tomorrow after the grotesque reality of how it works was laid out in parliament last week.

Amid rising clashes with the civilian police, protest organizer Ratsadon group last night announced a bid to swing the police force to its side by calling on officers not benefiting from the pay-to-promote patronage system to gather at 5pm on Tuesday at the Ratchaprasong intersection, a stone’s throw from national police headquarters.

“Good work, well-recognized work, but without lobbying, you will be stuck at the same place,” read the group’s statement appealing to the rank and file who are frozen out of advancement. “Police, it’s time to choose whether to side with the civilians or the tyrants!”

The so-called “police mob to defeat an elephant” is a reference to the current hot topic of “elephant tickets” that were called out by opposition lawmakers during last week’s no-confidence debate challenge to junta-leader-turned-prime minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha. 

Tua Chang (Elephant tickets) are literally tickets to swift advancement through the ranks signed by the most powerful political figures. Purchased for millions of baht, they can even be used to obtain discounts on the payouts and bribes needed to secure higher positions.

Tuesday’s rally, which seeks to recruit cops who are denied advancement based on merit, will be more festive and fun than furious.

Although corruption in the force, where higher ranks are explicitly purchased, isn’t a new concept to the general public, Friday saw it exposed in shocking detail in the parliament through leaked documents that showed the involvement of Gen. Prayuth, his right-hand man Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan, and the nation’s most powerful and untouchable institution in the patronage system.

MP Rangsiman Rome of the Move Forward Party presented a leaked palace document recommending the promotion of 20 police officers in 2019, when Prayuth and Prawit headed the Royal Thai Police from atop the ruling military junta.

Rangsiman said that pressure on police to obtain such tickets, which can cost millions of baht, creates a feedback loop of immorality and corruption, as officers must maximize bribes taken from illegal operations such as human trafficking and gambling.

For airing the dirty laundry, Rangsiman was threatened Saturday with prosecution for insulting the king by Suphon Attawong, an assistant minister in Prayuth’s office.

Rangsiman said he was aware of the danger.

“This is probably the most dangerous action I’ve ever taken in my life,” he told lawmakers while laying out the evidence. “But since people have chosen me for this duty, I will fight for them.”

Prayuth survived the no-confidence vote Saturday by a 276 to 206 vote.

Read more stories from Coconuts Bangkok here

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