Increasingly, the key focus of both US and Thai police agencies is the threat from the expanding cryptocurrency industry and cybercrime. A meeting this week between a senior US Embassy official and the Thai police chief also underscores the now strengthening relationship between Thailand and the United States in the face of international crime.

The government, this week, moved to tackle corruption within the Royal Thai Police with a bill to amend the National Police Act. It came as National Police Commissioner General Suwat Jang­yod­suk met the US Embassy Legal Attaché as cooperation between Thai and US law enforcement agencies looks like it is being enhanced especially in the fight against drugs and cybercrime both of which are increasingly linked with cryptocurrency.

Recently installed National Police Commissioner General Suwat Jang­yod­suk (left) and FBI Director Christopher Wray (right) who was represented at a meeting this week with the Thai police chief by the Legal Attaché at the US Embassy in Bangkok. A strengthening of ties and cooperation between the Royal Thai Police and US police agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation was discussed.

This week has seen several moves to strengthen the Royal Thai Police including an amendment to the National Police Act approved by the cabinet which will govern the promotion of senior officers within the force.

The legislation aims to make seniority the overarching basis for a decision on promotion to both counter corruption and also incentivise police officers to adhere to their duties and avoid disciplinary issues which could lead to their expulsion from the force and prosecution.

Law deals with police officers who take bribes

The legal provisions address the question of police officers who take bribes and provide for disciplinary and legal action against them including up to five years in prison as a deterrent.

The new law will also allow police officers who feel that they have been unfairly treated in a promotion decision to appeal to a ‘moral committee’ within the Royal Thai Police where they will have a hearing.

The question of corruption within the police force has been raised during the recent Covid-19 outbreak which saw dozens of officers at the most senior level removed from their positions after questions were raised about the toleration of illegal gambling dens and turning a blind eye to human trafficking especially in the light of unregistered migrant labour.

Sources within the government point to Section 258 under Chapter 16 of the 2017 Constitution which requires that it strengthens democratic accountability and particularly so when issues arise to do with the administration of the law and police enforcement matters.

National Police Commissioner meets US Embassy official to discuss cooperation between Thailand and the US on crime-fighting and security

This week, Thailand’s National Police Commissioner Suwat Jang­yod­suk, who has developed a reputation for robust action against police personnel linked with corruption, met with the Legal Attaché of the American Embassy in Thailand, Mr Chris A Cantrell.

Mr Cantrell was representing FBI Director Christopher Wray at the meeting.

The meeting marks increased activity between law enforcement officers in the kingdom and their counterparts in the United States over the last few weeks. 

Recent seminar focused on the takedown of cryptocurrency criminal trading site Alphabay in 2017

At a recent seminar attended by hundreds of police officers and officials with the Office of the Narcotics Control Board and even the Thai Minister of Justice Somsak Thepsutin, officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other American police agencies presented a seminar reviewing the joint successful operation between law enforcement officials in the US and Thailand in taking down the internet site Alphabay being run by 26-year-old Canadian Alexandre Caze in July 2017.

Only open for two years, the dark web marketplace where drugs and criminal services were traded in bitcoin, had made the young Canadian’s 2-year-old website into a billion-dollar empire, all operated from his luxury homes in Thailand.

Top Thai and US officials warn of the use of cryptocurrencies in the drug trade

He committed suicide days after his arrest while in detention.

Cryptocurrency threat on the radar of police agencies

At that meeting, some weeks ago, the threat posed by online operations with criminal purposes using cryptocurrency was the main theme.

So too in this week’s discussion in Bangkok between the National Police Commissioner General Suwat and the senior US Embassy Official.

Also discussed were ongoing efforts by Thai and US police agencies to combat human trafficking which sees girls and women from poorer Asian countries abused by being smuggled into Thailand for work in the sex industry and Thai women being smuggled to the US and other western countries where they are often initially enslaved in prostitution rackets through debt bondage schemes.

At this week’s meeting, the attaché presented his earnest regards from Federal Bureau of Investigation boss Christopher A Wray.

Long-standing relationship between Thailand, the police chief, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other US agencies in crime fighting

The Thai police chief drew attention to the cooperation from US law enforcement on the development of a Nakhon Ratchasima based firearms training centre while Mr Cantrell reminded the police chief of his connections with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

General Suwat received training at the FBI National Academy, an elite programme designed for only those of the highest standards of health, fitness and integrity of character.

The 10-week programme, which has been running since 1935 and is based at the Quantico Marine Corps Base in the US state of Virginia, culminates with a physical fitness ordeal dubbed the ‘Yellow Brick Road’ which involves 6.1 miles of a strenuous and demanding obstacle course.

Suitable training indeed for General Suwat’s current role and the challenges it presents.

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Further reading:

Top Thai and US drug suppression officials warn of the use of cryptocurrencies in the drug trade

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