It is normal for newly-appointed government officers taking up key posts to state policy objectives, and those of Pol Col Chote Chitchai are irrefutably noble.
Col Chote’s predecessor, Col Wanchai Ekpornpit, used a creative “scared straight” approach in trying to increase the use of motorcycle crash helmets among the large, thick-skulled segment of the local population who opt to ride without one.
That effort, though initially long on PR, politics and theatrics, has since been extended to every police district in Phuket and would appear to have caused some increase in helmet use – though there is still a long way to go.
Drugs and official corruption are going to be even harder nuts to crack, particularly the latter as it has become official indeed.
That Col Chote is serious about cracking down on illegal drug use is demonstrated by his support for random drug testing of police officers and his encouragement of the public to report abuse directly to himself through his mobile phone, which he has asked the Phuket Gazette to publish: 081-970 2523.
Readers with doubts about the sincerity of Col Chote’s campaign against corruption and drugs are encouraged to read the story on page 3 of the current issue of the Gazette, as well as the colonel’s ‘First Person’ address to the public on page 9 in our issue of last week. (Digital subscribers may download both by clicking here.)
The Gazette fully agrees with testing of police offers because accountability has to start at the top, not at so-called “random” nightclubs or street corners where drug deals are known to take place.
“Random” drug testing, of course, is anything but that.
It’s common knowledge that many police officers in Phuket are heavily invested, legally and otherwise, in nightlife venues. Handing these ‘officers’ the authority to launch “random” raids simply gives the police-owned venues another unfair advantage over their competitors, as is evident in their ability to remain open past the legal closing hours.
The root of the problem lies in the demand for recreational drugs, especially methamphetamines. Well over half the prisoners at the dangerously overcrowded Phuket Prison are drug offenders.
The same situation exists at penal facilities across the country.
What Thailand really needs is a national debate on why the problem is so much worse here than in other countries. Is it about the magnitude of corruption?
That presumably short debate should then be followed by a public offering of alternative strategies to replace the failed ones that have led this country into its current state.
One such failed ‘strategy’ is public denial. The oft-heard “Other countries have drug problems, too” is artful and escapist in the extreme.
And the last thing we need is another scandal like the “war on drugs” launched by Thaksin in 2003, which led to extra-judicial killings on a massive scale and international condemnation. And which, as we now know, had no long term impact on drug use in Thailand at all.
Readers wishing to support Col Chote’s efforts with constructive ideas are invited to offer them in the comments section below.
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