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Violent crime is so rare on Phuket that a murder rates graffiti

Comeback Police Chief Promises Low Crime Phuket

Sunday, June 15, 2008
CHANGES in personnel are expected to be made among Phuket's police as the new police chief comes to terms with some of the island's key issues of security and safety.

Police General Apirat Hongtong, who has returned to Phuket after six months as head of police in the border province of Ranong, plans to visit each of the eight island's police stations before taking action.

He also plans to involve local communities in prevention.

And he is confident he can reduce crime levels on the island, despite a shortage of officers.

''Within three months I want to see crime dramatically reduced,'' he said. ''I want to be able to put up bilbord saying: Phuket is crime free.''

It did not take General Apirat long to make his return evident to the island's illegal drug-sellers especially.

In a series of co-ordinated raids between June 10 and June 13 involving a total of 896 police and other officials, 88 people were arrested in possession of illegal drugs, firearms and ammunition.

Officers also confiscated 119,000 baht and a small amount of gold, two cars and four motorcycles.

The arrests were made all over Phuket. Involved in the raids were police from Phuket City, Tachatchai, Thalang, Chern Talay, Kathu, Kamala and Chalong with the help of Immigration Police, Marine Police, Tourist Police, Highway Police and eight officers from Surat Thani.

Longer-term, General Apirat is planning on bringing in skilled oficers from Bangkok to train the local force in crime detection and investigation.

But he is determined to get his way and will move staff who do not cooperate.

General Apirat said that if he cannot show within six months that his plans are reducing crime, he will leave Phuket for another posting.

''We don't have enough police for the number of people who live and work and holiday on Phuket,'' he said.

''But we will use CCTV and improve our skills to do our best to reduce crime with the staff we have.''

General Apirat was chief of police before resigning to contest an election for the Thai Rak Thai party, then returned on losing the election to the force and a new role in Ranong.

In the six months that followed in Ranong, he said, ''we reduced crime to zero. I plan to try to do the same on Phuket.''

Sun, sand and sea were Phuket's big attractions. But there were two more ''sses'' required: security and service, the general added.

But he warned about crime driven by the national economy.

Inflation generated by rising oil and rice prices could lead to more people turning to crime, he said. If incomes failed to keep pace with prices, more crime could be expected, he added.

He wants people to have a greater understanding of why police need to uphold the law. ''People should be content to have the law imposed, not expect breaches to be overlooked,'' the general said.

Roads on the island were for the public to use. He said that tuk-tuk drivers in Patong, for example, could not decide to ''own'' parking spaces intended for everyone to use.

One of his ideas is to esablish a 24-hour island-wide call centre for all crime. ''I will send police to help, whenever a call comes, no matter what time,'' he said.

General Apirat said that in the meantime, people could feel free to call his personal mobile number, day or night, seven days a week. His telephone number: 081 8936767.

Related Article:

Police Backflip a Boost for Phuket Criminals

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