The government has defended its ongoing police reform against public criticism that it’s proceeding at a snail’s pace, by saying such processes take time, adding that legislative components have partly been stalled by the pandemic.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is well aware of public concern over progress of the government’s overhaul of the police, while affirming the reform process has been continuing, government spokesman, Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, said yesterday.

The recent torture and killing of a drug suspect by police officers in Nakhon Sawan, while they allegedly tried to extort 2 million baht from him, has thrown a spotlight on the government’s attempt to reform the police.

“Police reform is a key part of the planned reform of the country’s judicial system, stated in the 2017 constitution,” said Mr Thanakorn. “And now a new bill on the national police is already being deliberated in parliament.”

In the short term, he said, the Royal Thai Police have been instructed by Gen Prayut to reform in seven core areas, namely organisational structure, human resources, law enforcement supporting systems, integration of technology into policing, public participation in policing, accountability and transparency in police work and welfare of the police.

As for criminals who are police officers, Mr Thanakorn said, they normally face maximum punishment when convicted of a crime.

Chief government whip Wirach Ratanasate, in his capacity as chairman of the House committee vetting the national police bill, meanwhile blamed the delay in the deliberation of the national police bill mainly on the impact of Covid-19, which has resulted in suspensions of House meetings.

At the same time, he said, there still are several more urgent laws to pass that have priority including the budget bill for the 2022 fiscal year and charter amendments. Next week parliament will be dominated by a new no-confidence debate and the final reading of and the vote on draft constitution amendments, he said.

So far the House committee vetting the national police bill has only finished deliberating 14 out of all 172 sections of the bill and this slow progress is due partly to the need to thoroughly discuss the proposed changes to the national police organisation’s structure, which is a key element in police reform,” said Mr Wirach. The Nakhon Sawan torture and killing case has reflected Gen Prayut’s failure to fulfil his vow to treat police reform as a priority since seizing power from the last elected government, said Arunee Kasayanont, spokeswoman for the opposition Pheu Thai Party