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How Police Shame Our Country


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It is a big slap in the face. And if the police

insist they are not mad at the Justice Ministry for going public with

the videotape evidence in the Santika Club inferno which contradicts

the police's findings, they are simply lying.

Last week, the police bigwigs held a big press conference to

announce that they had arrested and charged Saravuth Ariya, the lead

singer of the rock band Burn, for causing the New Year fire which

killed 66 people and injured hundreds of party-goers.

Two days later, Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga showed

video footage which suggested the police had arrested a scapegoat. The

police charge is based on the accounts of two eyewitnesses who said

they saw the singer ignite fireworks with his lighter, which caused the

inferno. But the video footage of Burn's stage performance did not show

that. Faced with the new evidence, the police countered that the short

footage might not have captured the entire event that led to the fire.

What is going on here? Is this part of an organisational rivalry

between the two state agencies? In self-defence, police said they were

unable to include the video footage in their case because the maverick

forensic doctor, Khunying Porntip Rojanasunan, had refused to hand it

over. She promptly said she had been so ordered by the justice minister.

It is no secret that the police view the director of the Forensic

Science Institute as their arch enemy, given her fearless and constant

criticism of police abuse.

It is no secret, either, that the police and Justice Ministry do not

see eye to eye. During the last national administrative reform, the

police were supposed to come under the supervision of the Justice


However, wanting to maintain their old power which keeps them

competitive with the army - and maintain the endless flow of tea money

- the police succeeded in resisting the move, choosing instead to

report directly to the prime minister.

Many policemen may think they are being punished by the Democrat-led

government for serving as the personal army of former prime minister

Thaksin Shinawatra. Others may think it is an effort by the Justice

Ministry to steal the scene.

The fact remains that the public stands behind the Justice Ministry

in the Santika case, given the police's dismal record of distorted

investigations in favour of certain parties. The video footage simply

confirmed the public's doubt that the arrest of singer Saravuth may

just be an effort by the police to close the case to protect the big


They are asking why the police did not find traces of heroin and

cocaine in the club's office area, as had the team of the Justice

Ministry; why had they not known long before that the club violated

construction laws; and why did the constant police raids suddenly stop

after a high-ranking cop became one of the club's shareholders?

The Justice Ministry's team also found that the club had not paid

taxes, that the engineer's signature had been forged for the club's

construction with apparent help from some BMA officials, that the

person registered as the club's manager was actually a worker in the

club's parking lot, and that the club might have been involved in a

money-laundering racket.

What is making the police shut their eyes?

The Santika fire disaster epitomises the problem of deep corruption

that is killing this country. Undeniably, in the eyes of the public the

main culprits are the police because they can feign blindness to

law-breaking until the festering problem explodes. And because they can

tamper with the evidence at will before the cases reach the courts.

The Santika case aside, the police's dinosaurean focus on eyewitness

accounts often opens itself to human error while the main use of

confessions as the main evidence opens itself to routine abuse and

torture. Why do the police resist forensic science? Simple answer: it

makes the effort to distort the cases and extort money from people

involved much more difficult.

The rule of law is mandatory for democracy. That will remain our

pipe dream so long as the first step towards legal justice is largely

in corrupt hands.

Sanitsuda Ekachai is Assistant Editor (Outlook), Bangkok Post.

Bangkok Post

Edited by Gravelrash
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A good post and one that provides some hints of the political struggle unfolding. Is it a turf war in the making ? One section jumps out though;

In self-defence, police said they were unable to include the video footage in their case because the maverick forensic doctor, Khunying Porntip Rojanasunan, had refused to hand it over. She promptly said she had been so ordered by the justice minister.

Very possible scenario. It has been alleged, although not proven, that she has witheld evidence in prior cases. Maybe she was motivated by a fear of tampering. I don't know. However, she should have spoken out sooner, at least to the police with whom she was communicating with. Is it a set up to make the police make fools of themselves? (Not that they need any help.)

I rarely agree with BP editorials but I agree with the article, save for the nagging question of the lady IMHO who has never avoided a self PR opportunity. Maybe she was giving the BiB a taste of their own medicine? I dunno, but if true, the flamboyant one can also be accused of impropriety as she let an innocent man be charged. I'd like to know what really happened with that part of the story.

Edited by geriatrickid
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Something built on a bad foundation isn't likely to withstand much. That's the case with Thailand. It is a house of cards made of corruption. Unfortunately, it just might not crumble so easily. There are a lot of high ranking people who have a vested interest in keeping things as they are.

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