Here to stay: Soldiers on Phuket streets to ‘bolster’ police efforts, take down influential figures
Soldiers seen on the streets over Songkran are to become a familiar sight as the Army has now assigned personnel to “assist and support” police in performing their duties.
The order to join police ranks in performing their duties was handed down on March 30, but it was not until the Songkran holidays that soldiers in Phuket joined police in manning checkpoints and carrying out raids.
Following the order, soldiers from the rank of sub-lieutenant up have been given police powers to summons, arrest and detain criminal suspects in a wide range of crimes including extortion, labour abuse and human trafficking.
But in Phuket, those powers will be restricted for use only in the presence of a police officer, assured Maj Gen Teenachat Jindangern, commander of Royal Thai Army’s 41st Military Circle, assigned to Phuket, under ISOC Region 4 Army base in Nakhon Sri Thammarat province.
“Our job is to assist and support police in Phuket,” he told The Phuket News. “Soldiers will be only assisting police. They will not conduct patrols on their own. Police will be ranking offices in all joint operations.
“Local police will still be in charge in all areas on the island,” Gen Teenachat assured.
While soldiers joined police in conducting patrols 24 hours a day to strictly crack down on any illegal activities, especially drunk driving, on Phuket roads, during Songkran, “We will continue carry out patrols in Phuket after Songkran, but not be as strict as during Songkran,” Gen Teenachat confirmed.
However, the Army will stand apart in its investigations into ‘influential people’, the general noted, adding, “This is part of the reason why we have set up an Army office in Phuket (on Sakdidet Rd).”
“At the military base in Nakhon Sri Thammarat, we handle many cases involving ‘influential people’ and we are currently collecting information of influential people in Phuket,” Gen Teenachat said.
Priority targets are people who encroach on public land, set up illegal gambling or casinos dens, illegal possession of weapons.. “and others” he said, but declined to elaborate on in detail.
“We are most interested in economic crimes, by Thais and foreigners, such as using illegal nominees to set up companies,” he added.
“We have directly received many complaints about economic crime on the island, and we have also received some from the Phuket Damrongtham Centre (Ombudsman’s Office).
“Our Control and Command Centre in Phuket was set up in February. We will be here to oversee the whole island,” Gen Teenachat said.
Lieutenant 1st Class Yotsawan Raknuanlaong has taken up direct command of the Army’s Phuket headquarters, located on Sakdidet Rd.
“We receive our orders directly from Gen Teenachat, We will work with officials in Phuket, and report directly back to the General,” Lt Yotsawan told The Phuket News.
“We have a staff of 10 military officers stationed at our Phuket office,” he said, though Gen Teenachat clarified that the Phuket soldiers will have a lot more personnel at their disposal.
“We also have extra support of about 40 personnel from the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command, and if we need more help, we have 80 Reserve Officers from Krabi ready to join our force,” Gen Teenachat said.