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Somyot gets national police chief job in unanimous vote

POL GENERAL Somyot Poompanmoung was yesterday chosen in a unanimous 6:0 vote by a junta-installed selection committee as the new Royal Thai Police chief. He will replace Pol General Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, the acting national police chief, who retires in September.

Somyot's one-year tenure before retirement in September 2015 will be a difficult, but much-awaited reform of the Royal Thai Police under a number of proposals which will be opposed by conservative officers but welcomed by the public and the military, who wish to ultimately depoliticise police.

Among drastic changes proposed via the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) are that police precincts be run locally by administrative bodies. Specialised police units will remain centralised and will be supervised by the Justice Ministry. For instance, Metropolitan Police would be run by a Bangkok governor and those based elsewhere by provincial governors.

In the police's own format, Watcharapol's version proposed that the national police, currently under the prime minister's direct supervision, be centralised and transformed into a so-called Public Security Ministry, with officers in administrative positions repositioned with and without ranks.

In another police reform version approved by the Cabinet in 2007, an independent petition-receiving service should be set up to deal with complaints about police abuse of power; five non-commissioned ranks above constable should be combined into one - a police senior sergeant major; the police policy board should be set up at all levels from police station to national.

Speaking after learning of his appointment on October 1 as the next national police chief, Somyot said he would do his best to make people love the police and boost morale and unity among police personnel while improving their welfare and expanding their residential units.

The 90-minute session yesterday selected Somyot from all five candidates, including Pol General Aek Angsananont.

Justice Ministry permanent secretary Charnchao Chaiyanukij, who was part of the selection panel, dismissed as rumour that the meeting, chaired by NCPO chief and Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, discussed a condition about Somyot being selected to run national police for one year before Aek, who retires in September 2016, succeeds.

Incumbent national police chief Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew, a former NCPO member and still effectively in his police post despite having been transferred to a civilian position at the PM's Office Ministry, retires on September 30.

Watcharapol will also be retiring next month as the acting police chief. He was installed as acting national police chief by the military after the seizure of power.


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