I have watched enough cop movies to know that a police chief can be such close buddies with a shady tycoon that huge sums of money pass between them.
I have also said things I later regretted saying, so when a former police chief claimed at an emotional moment that his police job was just “a sideline” and that he had bigger business to tend to, I barely raised an eyebrow.
I have lived in Thailand my whole life, so a former top cop being appointed head of the national football association without being able to tell the difference between the 4-4-2 and 3-4-3 team formations was no surprise either.
And as a pragmatic Thai, a former police chief doing all three is nothing out of the ordinary for me.
To be fair to retired police chief Somyot Poompanmuang, his actions are the rule here in Thailand, not the exception. He may have “borrowed” a staggering sum of money from infamous tycoon Kampol Wirathepsuporn, but what law did he break in doing so? Kampol was a free man at the time, wasn’t he? He’s still a free man now, although under a lot more legal scrutiny.
Regarding the “sideline” uproar, show me a police chief who retired with only his pension and salary savings, who drives a cheap car without a chauffeur and lives in a cheap house, and I will pinch you out of your dream. All I’m saying is this: Just because Somyot is apologising for suggesting he had higher priorities than his duty to serve and protect, does not mean he and all other ex-police chiefs did not have “sideline” businesses they considered more important than police work.
Simply put, no former or incumbent police chief is ever poor. And since all of them are rich, they must have “sidelines”, right? All we can do is speculate about the types of those businesses. I, for one, don’t know for sure what they are, but I’m quite certain they are not coffee shops or music studios. Such investments are for people like you and me, who may have like a million baht or two to start a venture – but not Bt300 million.
And if you want to take Somyot to task for muscling in on the realm of football, all I’m asking for is consistency. In other words, you must also include other sport associations that are headed by similarly “unqualified” individuals.
As we can see, Somyot was a normal Thai police officer who then became an ordinary police chief, and who has ended up a typical high-level retiree. To those who frown at his association with Kampol, you also need to frown at what allowed such an association to happen in the first place, which was not his fault.
Critics say he crossed ethical lines. Somyot, as an enforcer of the law, should not have taken money from questionable sources, they point out. But what if Somyot had borrowed Bt300 million from a bank, which in turn benefited from deposits by people like Kampol? Would that have made the ultimate “problem” go away and make everything okay in our society?
Some say that, as police chief, Somyot was bound by a much stronger ethical code than are banks. That’s a good call, but it’s also a pipe dream. Men like him carry guns throughout their whole careers, so how can we expect gun carriers to have better morals and ethics than non-gun carriers?
We and Somyot may actually deserve each other after all.
And now that I’m at it, scolding that high-flying construction mogul for alleged illegal hunting is more or less the same thing. We are barking up the wrong tree, a syndrome amplified the knee-jerk nature of our social media era. One bad guy cannot overpower a good system. A rotten system, on the other hand, can turn plenty of good guys into bribe-givers and takers.
One criticism however does make some sense, on the surface at least. Guys like Somyot and Premchai Karnasuta, the now infamous “hunter”, were in a position to set high standards, with or without help from society. They obviously failed to do that, the critics say.
Well, it takes two to tango. It takes a lot more than two to tango, in fact. In another society, would Somyot have borrowed the money from Kampol, and would rich people have even considered hunting in protected areas? We need both standard-setters and standard-keepers to form a good society. When the former are very hard to come by, the latter must guard against substandard folks.
Judging from the way things are, the standard-keepers have apparently not done a good job, and have themselves largely to blame.