Activists are calling for more gender equality within the force pointing to criminal cases involving the sexual abuse and exploitation of women which are a growing proportion of Thailand’s criminal offences and are often linked or intertwined with drug abuse. A story of a 13-year old young Muslim girl who took her own life in the Ramkhamhaeng area of Bangkok in 2019 highlights the need for more of a woman’s touch within the country’s large police force.

Thailand has appointed its first senior police officer in charge of investigations in Surat Thani province this week. The new officer will take on the role of deputy superintendent at a local police station and follows the appointment in 2019 of the kingdom’s first female police superintendent in Bangkok. However, it is coming at a time when the recruitment of women to the force is lagging amid huge demand to enter the ranks from unemployed graduates who cannot find work in the ongoing COVID-19 economy which has yet to recover its momentum to pre-pandemic levels.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Sophit Phitsaphan (left) was confident as she took on her new role this week at Ban Ta Khun Police Station in Surat Thani as a deputy superintendent in charge of investigations. It comes at a time when calls are being made for more female police officers in a force that barred entry to the police cadet college to women in 2018 and where only 8% of the rank and file are female.

The Royal Thai Police has appointed its first deputy superintendent working on criminal investigations. Police Lieutenant Colonel Sophit Phitsaphan took up her role at Ban Ta Khun Police Station in southern Thailand’s Surat Thani province this week.

The young woman who previously worked as a drug use prevention officer in the force from 2015 is also a qualified teacher and in her previous role used these skills to reach out to younger people and students to encourage them to avoid illicit narcotics.

Responsible for supervising an investigative team of six or seven officers at Ban Ta Khun Police Station

Police Lieutenant Colonel Sophit will be responsible for supervising a six to seven-man team working on criminal investigations. She is the first woman to be assigned such a role in the kingdom.

Her elevation comes two years after Police Colonel Pawina Ekchat became the first Royal Thai Police Superintendent at Talat Phlu police station in Bangkok after thirty years of service following her switch from being a nurse at Police General Hospital in the capital city.

The appointment in 2019 came after years of encouragement by her immediate superior in the force who nominated her for promotion.

Rights activists calling for more women in the force with only 7 to 8% of its 230,000 officers female

Rights activists in Thailand have long called for more women in the Royal Thai Police despite a limit being placed on female recruitment in recent years and with only 8% of a force of over 230,000 officers reported to be women. Some reports even suggest that this figure may have fallen, in recent years, to 7%.

The reason for the need for more police officers in Thailand and gender equality in the force, as advocated by campaigners, is the nature of crimes in the kingdom particularly concerned with the investigation of offences linked with drug use and the exploitation of vulnerable women. 

Such crimes often require, for cultural and indeed for reasons prescribed in the legal statutes, a female police officer who can build a better rapport with the abused person.

The nature of some crimes involving physical assaults and abuse of women often necessitates interaction with female officers.

A case that stands out in Thailand as one where there was the need for female investigators is one that eventually led to the suicide of a young Muslim girl in Bangkok in November 2019.

Tragic suicide of a young Muslim girl in Bangkok highlights the need for female officers in the force

The young girl, named by police only as ‘Pinkie,’  was a 13-year-old Muslim who was living with her single mother in the Suan Luang area of the city.

She had gotten involved with a gang of young men peddling drugs on a small-time basis near the canal of the busy metropolitan district.

The young men, later in a group of six, are believed by police to have abducted ‘Pinkie’ and kept her for 2 or 3 days at a ramshackle canal house in the city where she was abused.

Tragedy of a 13-year-old Muslim girl who died on Friday in Bangkok shows the need for more women police

When the men were arrested in a drugs raid the young girl was caught up in the police operation and sent to a medical facility by officers as part of a probe into her claims of abuse at the hands of the men. She was later given medication at the hospital.

Could not explain the situation convincingly to her mother due to the circumstances of her abuse which was linked to the illicit drugs raid which rescued her

However, when the 13-year-old returned to her home in a tower block in Bangkok’s Ramkhamhaeng area she couldn’t explain her ordeal to her mother.

The pair had a row as ‘Pimkie’ recalled her compromised position at the time of the raid which police appeared to be treating, at least at the outset, as a drugs raid even though a case had been opened promptly into her claims of abuse.

Neighbours had heard reports of a drug raid and the criminal gang involved.

Two men were later arrested on court warrants for illegal detention and the abuse of a minor in connection with the case.

The argument led to the young girl taking her life from the 12th floor of the building just seconds before her frightened mother, suddenly apprehending the situation, had run to the top of the building after having had a change of heart. It was too late.

First female superintendent in Bangkok in 2019 said her previous role as a nurse at Police General Hospital helped her to be a better officer dealing with victims

The case highlights the need for a woman’s touch which was emphasised two years ago by Police Colonel Pawina Ekchat when she affirmed that her former role as a nurse had helped her to be a better police officer.

‘I’d met so many police officers during my time nursing that I thought I might be good at the job and enjoy the life. But I’ve never forgotten the knowledge and skills I picked up during my time as a nurse,’ Police Colonel Pawina explained two years ago. ‘This skill is particularly useful during interrogations where I need to find out key details from the victims of serious crimes.’

Huge demand for positions within the Royal Thai Police from college graduates seeking work right now

With a huge demand for entry into the limited ranks of the Royal Thai Police in the last two years due to the tight economic situation caused by the pandemic, the recruitment of more women is not being looked at as a priority.

Many of those currently sitting examinations for positions are university graduates who must still score within the top twentieth percentile to have a chance of being accepted.

In 2018, the then Chief of the Royal Thai Police, General Chakthip Chaijinda confirmed a move to block the recruitment of women by the Royal Police Cadet Academy (RPCA) and the transfer of 280 already enrolled female cadets from the institution.

Women barred from police cadet school in 2018

The reason given was the eligible candidates had to be members of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School where they are expected to study for three years and which does not enrol women.

Part of the justification for the ban put forward at the time was that training of female police officers was not cost-effective as their role in the force was limited to acting as inquiry officers.

The decision caused widespread criticism of the government’s commitment to gender equality.

Women can still be recruited by the Royal Thai Police once they have an approved university bachelor’s degree, pass a screening process and attend a 6 months training programme.

New deputy police superintendent says she was leading a team effort in her new role, not a solo run

Back in Surat Thani province, Police Lieutenant Colonel Sophin says she is looking forward to working with her colleagues in the investigations unit she will lead as a team effort and not a solo run.

The young woman has already won awards for her drug prevention work in the force and has arrived at her new post with a good reputation. 

Her new rank places her on the 5th level of command for commissioned police officers with the 10th being the rank of General reserved for such figures as the National Police Commissioner, General Suwat Jang­yod­suk.

Commander of Police Region 8 expresses confidence in his new officer who he says will bring valuable knowledge to the leadership role in Surat Thani

Her superior, Police Lieutenant General Amphol Buarabporn, the Commander of Provincial Police Region 8 headquartered in Phuket, said that Police Lieutenant Colonel Sophit has the qualifications to do the job and he was not in favour of discriminating between male and female police officers.

He said while he had not met the new officer, he had been told that the force, at a senior level, believed she had the skills and capability to carry out the role.

He noted that Police Lieutenant Colonel Sophit had a good understanding of the law.

‘She will perform her duties as assigned to her to the highest standard. Now we have a senior officer who can give valuable advice especially on the law which she has studied together with her knowledge and she is prepared to work in this field.’

Police Lieutenant General said that the new topflight female officer will have the support of her team who will be engaged in detection and bringing evidence to light in cases. 

He pointed out that the arrest of criminals was not simply about going out and apprehending culprits but was the product of patient detective and investigative work which Police Lieutenant Colonel Sophit will be coordinating.

Join the Thai News forum, follow Thai Examiner on Facebook here
Receive all our stories as they come out on Telegram here
Follow Thai Examiner here

Further reading:

Tragedy of a 13-year-old Muslim girl who died on Friday in Bangkok shows need for more women police

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

Illegal Chinese fraudsters use fake banking app to steal millions of baht from gulled online SCB users

Drug police put retraction behind them to smash billion baht Myanmar drug operation in Bangkok raid

Use of cocaine and cannabis is still highly illegal in Thailand with very serious legal consequences

Sex, drugs and alcohol as Chiang Rai party-goers arrested in the midst of the growing virus emergency

One of the biggest drug dealers in the South flees home as Thai police and army move against him

Evil drugs trade in Songkhla sees Thai woman burned alive by her family for 300 grams of ice missing in village

Thai man burns down his family home: Thailand’s drugs problem is still a very real threat to society

UK man arrested on drugs charges by CSD police in Pattaya claims ex Thai wife set him up

UK drug dealers living it up in Thailand to be deported back to the UK after arrests in Pattaya

Italian living with Thai wife on Koh Phangan arrested for dealing after drugs found in the post

UK drug dealers living it up in Thailand to be deported back to the UK after arrests in Pattaya

Kiwi taken into custody on drug charges in Chiang Mai after police raided his bar and restaurant

Drug lords using an Australian gang to ship concealed drugs to Australia and Canada – more arrests promised

Double life of a UK man who became a drug dealer in Udon Thani

UK man watched his ceiling as a downpour of money spelled his downfall and jailing in Thailand

American man and Thai wife arrested for selling ‘ice’ in Pattaya after police swooped on Bang Lamung condo