Thai police reward for bombing probe was unnecessary and unprofessional: The Nation

Police officers standing guard as people pray at the Erawan shrine, the site of recent deadly blast, in central Bangkok, Thailand, on Sept 3, 2015.
Police officers standing guard as people pray at the Erawan shrine, the site of recent deadly blast, in central Bangkok, Thailand, on Sept 3, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

In its editorial on September 03, 2015, The Nation says authorities showed unseemly haste in giving the monetary reward when key suspects are still at large.

The national police chief's decision to reward his own officers for doing their job in investigating the Erawan Shrine bombing has drawn criticism and ridicule both in Thailand and abroad.

Online social networks are buzzing with scorn and editorial cartoonists have lampooned the "generous act".

General Somyot Poompanmuang announced on Monday that he would hand over the Baht3 million (S$118,650) reward - offered for information leading to an arrest in connection with the August 17 attack - to the team of investigators that tracked down a suspect last Saturday.

The police chief explained that the arrest resulted from "good police work" rather than outside tips.

"It was the ability of the Thai police that led to the arrest. This money should go to the officials who did their job," Somyot said at a press conference at Royal Thai Police headquarters.

"One million comes from me and the other two million from my businessmen friends, who do not wish to be named," he added, displaying three thick wads of Bt1,000 notes on the podium in front of him.

The bombing put Thai police squarely in the global spotlight and cautious praise greeted the first arrest last weekend.

Yet this latest development was a shock for some foreign news media.

"Thai police have given themselves the Bt3-million reward originally offered to the public," one international media outlet noted.

"The move comes even though the chief suspect - a man in a yellow T-shirt seen on CCTV cameras dropping a black backpack at the shrine minutes before the explosion - is still at large."

It is sound business practice for managers to laud their subordinates when they perform well.

In this case, however, rewarding them with huge cash bonuses seems excessive and unnecessary.

A public acknowledgement and official recognition in the form of citations or medals would have been sufficient, particularly when the investigation is still in the early stages and no one has yet been specifically charged with carrying out the attack.

With only two arrests made in connection with the bombing, there is a long way to go before this case can be closed.

Nor are we the first to warn that, in the first place, offering a large cash reward as an incentive to assisting in the investigation might well in fact foster haste and carelessness.

Panthongtae Shinawatra, son of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, has separately offered a reward of Bt7 million, but he has shown more circumspection than the police chief.

He has announced that his pledge will only be honoured when a government spokesman is able to "tell the world that the Thai authorities have arrested the gang responsible for the Ratchaprasong bombing".

Chief Somyot deserves a measure of praise for his public-spirited generosity in paying the reward from his own pocket, but it would have made more sense to wait until the central culprit, the mastermind behind this outrage, has been brought to justice.

It is duly noted that the multimillionaire police chief has less than a month left in office, limiting the time period in which he can show his appreciation for the work of the officers in his charge.

He must by law retire at the end of this month, and the case is unlikely to be solved before then.

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The Nation is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 22 newspapers.