Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Avudh on Police Reshuffle Politics

The Nation

Patcharawat faces two key problems preventing him from fading away quietly upon retirement. The foremost is that his exit coincides with the restructuring of the police service.

The other is the ongoing struggle between the yellow shirts and the red shirts to influence the police.

Police restructuring, scheduled to take effect on August 16, is a sweeping move to overhaul the service comprising 105,375 positions - an unprecedented opportunity to fill top slots for more than 1,000 generals and colonels.

Patcharawat, acting in cahoots with Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, pushed through a rotation list for top positions affecting more than 150 police generals. The two cited the new structure as the reason to rush the list for Cabinet approval.

The list was in the process of being submitted for royal approval when Abhisit realised foul play and suspended it.

It is left unsaid that because of the controversial police list, Abhisit has now less confidence in his deputy Suthep. At this juncture, the police rotation is put on hold until Patcharawat's successor emerges.

The police service is severely impacted by political polarisation. The red shirts and the yellow shirts have their vested interests - the two camps wanting to sway police reports related to street protests. And it is a stark reality that police appointments do impact the political scene and vice versa. Even though Patcharawat has less than 60 days left in office, his presence or absence for a single day can work magic to shape or reshape police proceedings.

The next issue to consider is the power struggle in the police service.

During his five years in power, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra managed to install a number of henchmen in top positions. The Democrats now face a daunting task in reconfiguring the police upper echelons.

Despite dozens of candidates, Abhisit has just two choices to pick from as acting police chief. He is forced to choose either General Thanee Somboonsap or General Patheep Tanprasert.

General Prieopan Damapong, the senior-most officer after Patcharawat, can never be a choice because he is Thaksin's brother-in-law. And his job record is far from exemplary. Even the Somchai Wongsawat government did not name him a caretaker chief when the opportunity arose last year.

All other candidates for the top job either lack seniority or are seen as linked to the red-shirt camp. General Wongkot Maneerin is a police cadet classmate of Thaksin. General Jongrak Juthanont is seen as close to the red shirts.

I think this was some good reporting by Avudh. The police reshuffle is probably the real issue behind the Patcharawat drama.

Abhist comes off as the hypocrite once again. During the Thaksin years, this was an issue where the Democrats and The Nation were bemoaning Thaksin's interference with reshuffles.

It is funny, when Thaksin did something like interfere with seniority in the armed and police services, he was bad, evil and interfering with checks and balances . The Nation would scream about it for weeks, but now that Abhisit is PM, the editorial position of The Nation is to go against tradition and policy in the name of getting ridding of the Thaksinistas, their enemies. I am too lazy to get the links, but I am refering to Sopon and Thanong's recent rants about Patacharwat and his supposed leave and the Sondhi Lim case.

Put simply, The Nation has no principles whatsoever. All their crying about ethics and morality falls on deaf ears considering they are willing to become just like Thaksin in order to destroy him.

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