SONGKHLA: No one would claim the life of a laborer in Thailand is easy; having to toil in the midday sun while others make all the money is sure to rankle. This is presumably the reason why casual-laborer-for-hire Thanongsak Rakngam, 31, a native of Songkhla province, decided to turn to a more easeful occupation. Thinking that police work looked like it might be a profitable pursuit, he decided to appoint himself to the exalted rank of police lieutenant-colonel. In the early hours on February 11, Thanongsak set up his very own road checkpoint on Soi 23, Phetchkasem Rd in Haad Yai City. At 2:30 am that same night, Pol Sgt Jamrak Jitpaloh from Haad Yai District Police station was on his way home. He had been attending personal business, so was out of uniform. As he was driving down Soi 23 he saw Thanongsak – whose name roughly translates as “one who believes in his own power” – dressed in full uniform, signaling for him to stop. Having nothing to hide, he complied and pulled over. With authority, Thanongsak reached over to take the keys out of the ignition of Sgt Jamrak’s motorbike. On seeing the insignia of a police lieutenant colonel on Thanongsak’s uniform, Sgt Jamrak became somewhat confused – he did not recognize this ranking officer asking to see his driving license. Police lieutenant colonel is a rank of some prestige, each district police force having only a few such officers. Sgt Jamrak was sure he knew all the high-level officers in Haad Yai Police District. He did not question Thanongsak however, and willingly complied with the “officer’s” requests. He pretended to phone a relative, claiming that he wanted to say that he had been delayed. Instead, he stealthily dialed 191 and told Sub Lt Chatree Suwandon at Haad Yai District Police Station, of his suspicions. When Lt Chatree arrived at the scene, Thanongsak’s face turned pale. He was lost for words when Lt Chatree then asked to see his “superior’s” police ID card. At this point, Thanongsak, realizing the jig was up, promptly confessed that he was really just a casual laborer. At Haad Yai District Police Station, Thanongsak admitted that he had successfully pulled the stunt on numerous occasions in various quiet sois in Haad Yai where police were unlikely to pass. He told police that he waved down passing vehicles, demanding to see the drivers’ licenses and checking whether the insurance and registration were up-to-date. He then convinced any offenders that an on-the-spot fine would be far easier for both parties than continuing the matter at the station. Thanongsak’s uniform was seized as evidence. He was charged with impersonating a government official and wearing the uniform or insignia of an official without having the right to do so. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a 2,000-baht fine.
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