Plans mulled to train up the force
A strange development is occurring at the police academy, where a senior officer actually wants to be the boss - New minister Paveena is proving to be a shining light in the buffetted Yingluck administration - Everyone's favourite whipping boy, Chalerm Yubamrung, shows a positive side
The change of command at the Royal Police Cadet Academy (RPCA) seldom ever attracts media attention even though it plays a significant role in the development of the country's law enforcement ranks.
Piya: Impressive career record
The post of school commissioner is generally regarded as a low-level one, in part because it is traditionally awarded to a retiring police officer as a condolence gesture for missing out on a more significant job.
Occasionally, the post is given to a ''rising star'' who needs a springboard for a higher position, such as in the cases of Pol Lt Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen and Pol Gen Seripisuth Temiyavej.
While Pol Gen Pongsapat served there for two years, Pol Gen Seripisuth only had a brief stint in the post before he was appointed commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau.
But things are different this year. The appointment of the new RPCA commissioner is creating a stir as Pol Maj Gen Piya Utayo, deputy commissioner of the Personnel Division attached to the Commissioner-General Office, has submitted an application for the post.
While it is no secret that Pol Maj Gen Piya has a keen interest in running the academy, what has changed the situation is a recent amendment involving the criteria for candidates.
Based on the amended criteria, the RPCA commissioner is no longer required to have served as a deputy commissioner for two years, making Pol Maj Gen Piya, who has been a deputy commissioner for about one year, qualified to contend for the job.
Observers suggest the amendment was merely a direct attempt to help Pol Maj Gen Piya, whose career ambition is to develop every aspect of the police academy.
Pol Maj Gen Piya is known to be close to national police chief Gen Adul Saengsingkaew and Pol Gen Chidchai Wannasathit, of the RPCA's Education Council.
The deputy commissioner's vision presented to the RPCA's selection committee is equally interesting.
It is believed that he has pledged to serve four years in the post to carry out his aims of improving the academy. A period of four years is considered an eternity by the police academy's standards. No RPCA commissioner has served for more than two years since the academy was established.
They either retire or get promoted. The current RPCA commissioner, Pol Lt Gen Aree Onchit, has just been appointed an assistant national police chief in a fresh reshuffle on Wednesday.
Pol Maj Gen Piya's track record is impressive. The deputy commissioner served as chief cadet, a recognition granted by both his classmates and instructors, throughout his study years and graduated top of his class (Class of 38). Since joining the force, he has been regarded as not wearing any political label, making him a top choice when politicians and supervisors are looking for a helping hand.
It should be known by the end of this month if the RPCA's selection committee will support Pol Maj Gen Piya's vision and aspirations for the academy.
By law, the Police Commission is required to finalise its reshuffle by Aug 31.
All for a good cause
As criticism mounts over the Yingluck administration's policies and selection of ministers, it seems to some observers that only Social Development and Human Security Minister Paveena Hongsakula has any chance of restoring the administration's image.
For premier Yingluck Shinawatra's fifth cabinet, the selection of Ms Paveena for the ministry was hailed as the most appropriate choice compared with the other ministers.
Paveena: Highly regarded by public
The Paveena Hongsakula Foundation, chaired by Ms Paveena, has provided highly regarded assistance to children, women and the elderly for a long time, and that inevitably ensured Ms Paveena's suitability for the post.
Ms Paveena was previously chosen to be in line for the post of deputy governor of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration during the city recent governor election.
However, the chance was lost after Pheu Thai Party candidate Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen lost the poll, though Ms Paveena played a major role in gaining his better-than-expected tally of votes through her support bases of Sai Mai and Don Muang districts.
The recent cabinet shake-up saw former minister Santi Prompat, who was believed to be Pheu Thai's key fund supporter and a close aide to Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra _ Thaksin Shinawatra's former wife _ transferred to the post of Prime Minister's Office minister.
Critics say Mr Santi's performance as the social development and human security minister could hardly be described as outstanding.
Since Ms Paveena replaced him, she has taken up a series of complaints that have drawn media attention, including a national pistol sportsman's alleged assault of his wife and a model's complaint about attacks carried out by the son of an influential Pratunam figure.
Ms Paveena's efforts have always been bolstered by the media to the extent that the public has come to rely on her services rather than state agencies.
As Ms Paveena reins in the ministry, the government can only hope that her diligence will boost its performance and take minds off the growing array of problems, including rotten rice allegedly found in the administration's rice-pledging programme and accusations of high-level graft.
The ministry can expect a further boost as Ms Yingluck is due to unveil a centre to cope with social issues around the clock.
The administration also plans to roll out a pro-active strategy to help people from newborn babies to the elderly.
Ms Paveena recently picked her personal adviser, Narong Petprasert, a Chulalongkorn University economist, to help her in the ministry.
Political observers say this selection has perturbed red shirts and Pheu Thai members because Mr Narong appears to have an opposing view of politics to theirs.
The new minister does not seem worried about the matter because the ministerial post will be a platform from which she can gain more prominence to support her worthy causes.
From brickbats to bouquets
Chalerm Yubamrung took it poorly when it became clear he would be made Jab Kang 1 _ the labour minister _ as the press calls it.
The first to face the ex-deputy prime minister's wrath was Pol Col Thawee Sodsong, secretary-general of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre, whom Mr Chalerm claimed had tried to undermine him at every turn while he was in charge of security down in the southernmost provinces.
A video clip in which Mr Chalerm fired a broadside at Pol Col Thawee after his transfer would offer a lot of censorship ''bleeps'' if it was aired by public broadcasters.
Chalerm: Cares for his staff
Then he went after what he called the ''ice cream gang'' _ a reference to inexperienced people surrounding Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Undaunted by the veteran politician's acid tongue, certain members of Ms Yingluck's entourage fired back on social media with a photo of them holding ice creams while on an overseas trip.
After further ''gnashing of teeth'' over being demoted, Mr Chalerm pulled himself together.
On his first day in office Mr Chalerm drew bouquets rather than brickbats when he promised to review a proposed amendment to the Social Security Act, which was aimed at making the labour minister the chairman of the Social Security Office (SSO) board. He insisted the job should be handled by the labour permanent secretary.
He then went on to extend the registration of immigrant workers for another year to relieve the industry sector's labour shortage. He is also trying to be the conscience of the labour rights movement by vowing to crack down on the employment of illegal immigrants and human trafficking.
Mr Chalerm finally came to enjoy the nickname Jab Kang 1 bestowed by the press. It goes well with a photo of him wearing a pair of sunglasses which are used in the Labour Ministry's labour promotion campaign.
''I love this name very much. Had I known there was a lot to do at the Labour Ministry, I would have volunteered to be here,'' he said.
Mr Chalerm's efforts are seen as currying favour with labour officials and appeasing the labour force at the same time. But those who are close to him know the veteran MP is good at identifying with the concerns of the people he has to work with.
For example, when he took charge of the Royal Police Bureau, Mr Chalerm, an ex-police officer, won over the cynics by seeking to increase welfare benefits for the force, especially for low-ranking officers.
When he took the helm at the Justice Ministry, unlike other politicians he won acclaim from senior justice officials, including those in the judiciary and the public prosecution department, for his non-interventionist policy.
When assigned to oversee the Corrections Department, he was instrumental in pushing for reforms in which minor offenders would be kept out of jail and detained at home instead.
Recently he has been appointed as head of the government's narcotics suppression centre _ a job that would allow him some control of the police force. To some observers, it is seen as a kind of olive branch.
However, it remains to be seen if Mr Chalerm will continue to play the role of the prime minister's guardian angel as before, after Ms Yingluck's aides have crossed swords with him.