Tourist Police post no laughing matter for 'Sweet Joke'

Pol Maj Gen Surachet Hakpan, the high-profile officer who wants to 'start from scratch' to rebuild the newly upgraded Tourist Police Bureau has taken the first step to the top. (Post Today photo)

The appointment of Patrol and Special Operation Division (PSOD) chief Surachet Hakpan as a deputy chief of the newly upgraded Tourist Police Bureau (TPB) has stirred up talk about alleged political ties and influences he has in the police force.

In an interview Pol Maj Gen Surachet offers his side of story.

You are perceived by your peers as a celebrity police officer. Do you know why?

I don't think there's anything special about me. I only do my job. Being a police officer requires following discipline and doing what your supervisor tells you to do. A police officer is ready to do any tasks set for him. As for public opinion about me, people have different thoughts and perceptions. I accept all praise and criticisms because we can't be right or wrong all the time. But I want to do my part the best I can.

Do you think the nickname 'Sweet Joke' makes you look good or bad?

I don't mind at all. For me, if I do my best, that's enough. I don't know how long I will be in this or that position. So when I'm assigned to a post or a job, I just get to work. If there are compliments, I say thank you. But I take criticism seriously and see if I can use it to improve myself and correct my flaws.

Do you feel uncomfortable being watched?

No, not at all. As I've mentioned, being a policeman means following orders and discipline. We have a job and do the best we can.

We strive to make our society better. Not only us, but soldiers, civilians and local administrators put in their effort to address problems -- narcotics, illegal weapons or street racing.

Why do people see you as a protege of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and think you are the one preparing a police reshuffle list?

I don't know. It's what they say. I never get involved. A reshuffle is handled by the national police chief. He has already clarified the matter.

There is talk about police approaching you to secure promotions.

That's not true. No one approaches me. The reshuffle is beyond me. There are regulations about this matter and there are people responsible for this kind of issue.

I'm responsible for the PSOD only and may make some recommendations when asked.

People are saying you were made a major general at a young age and you can choose and have any post you want.

I don't get to choose. I follow instructions and orders. I've been assigned to every region, the North, the Northeast, and the South. If I could choose, I wouldn't choose those places.

Do you have any conflicts with senior officers?

I don't. As I say, we follow discipline and we respect supervisors.

Is the newly upgraded Tourist Police Bureau (TPB) your initiative?

No, it isn't. It was the work of former deputy national police chief, Wut Liptapanlop.

The TPB has got a nod in this administration, which is really good because we're in the Asean Economic Community (AEC) and we can expect an increase in tourists.

You are being groomed as the next TPB commissioner.

That's not true. There is no grooming. There isn't anything.

If you become the TPB chief, what do you want to do? You served as commander of the Tourist Police Division before.

The TPB is new, which means a lot of work needs to be done. Those who have been assigned there must start from scratch.

Even if we have the manpower, we still have to train the officers to make sure they are up to the task. The country needs to build and maintain the confidence of tourists.

Do you think it's your fault following the Criminal Court's acquittal of 13 people charged in connection with the 'zero-dollar tour' scams? You were the head of the arrest team.

It's not a mistake or anyone's fault. The court follows due process. The suspects were charged and indicted. They were acquitted but authorities can still appeal to a higher court.

You seem to be energetic and full of ideas. Do you ever think of bringing any of them to the regime and pushing for changes at the police force?

That's the police chief's job. I am not part of the police reform committee, but I am interested in the matter and try to keep up.

I think the reform effort will restore public confidence in the organisation. It touches on several issues such as greater transparency or better welfare.

In the end it will reduce conflicts or disputes within. There will be fewer lawsuits if the police force can ensure fairness and transparency for its personnel.

You have 14 years before mandatory retirement and a good chance of being made the police chief. If promoted, what would you do?

I don't think that far.

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