Transports of Delight
Extra police are having to be drafted in to take charge of parking at the Crime Suppression Division which is rapidly becoming overcrowded, leading to unfortunate cases of road rage among CSD officers all clamouring for space.
The problem began with the recent attempt to arrest core leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy and former Senator Karun Sai-ngam in Prakhon Chai District of Buriram Province on charges related to the PAD occupation of Bangkok’s airports 3 and a half years ago. Having blocked off Mr Karun in his pick-up truck, police officers were foiled in their attempt to make an arrest by Mr Karun locking his doors and refusing to get out.
Apart from dealing with an instant protest of yellow shirts, police were also hampered by the court’s refusal to issue a search warrant for a pick-up truck. After a night’s stand-off, the pick-up was loaded onto a truck and carried 400 km to CSD headquarters in Bangkok.
It was only when a locksmith was brought in to open the pick-up door that Mr Karun agreed to get out and answer the arrest warrant. After a day’s questioning, he was set free by the police, without bail.
Press reports failed to answer some obvious questions about this case. First, what did he do for a pee all that while? Second, who pays for his petrol to drive back to Buriram?
Then there is the question of the law that forbids drivers from running their engines while stationary just so they can benefit from the air-con. Apparently Mr Karun did exactly this during the journey to Bangkok. Is it legal to run the motor while stationary on a moving vehicle?
But perhaps the most serious question is why won’t the courts issue a search warrant for a vehicle? (And by the way, if the police didn’t have a search warrant that would authorize them to get inside the vehicle, on what authority did they call in a locksmith so that they could, er, get inside the vehicle?)
I fear that the learned judges may have inadvertently given an almighty boost to the drugs trade in the country.
Up till now, dealing in illegal drugs has required premises secure from suspicion or search. Some dealers have found that the safest way of doing business was to get locked up and then have the necessary goods and equipment smuggled, thrown or parachuted into prison. Recent prison raids have revealed a flourishing trade in illegal drugs outside the prison controlled by convicts on the inside.
But with this latest ruling they can now operate from the comfort of a camper van or caravan, safe in the knowledge that they cannot be searched, with the added benefit of being able to take the odd holiday.
The word went round the criminal classes with predictable speed and police found themselves banging on locked car doors up and down the country. The only recourse left open to them was to transport the recalcitrant suspects, vehicle and all, to CSD headquarters and call in the locksmith.
The CSD parking area now contains 43 pick-ups, 29 private cars, 3 taxis, 17 minivans, 12 ten-wheelers and a tour bus, all towed in from various parts of the country and all containing suspects refusing to open their doors. With staff and visitors also requiring parking space for their vehicles, this is causing intolerable congestion.
The situation hasn’t been helped by the case of a methamphetamine dealer in Phichit who locked himself in the outside privy when the police arrived. The police application for a search warrant in this case was also denied on the basis that the latrine, being a separate structure, did not form an integral part of the adjacent house and also bore no registration data that would be needed for a proper search warrant to be issued.
‘A warrant must specify uniquely which premises are to be searched,’ explained a court official. ‘You can’t just say the lavvy behind such and such a place.’
Foiled in their attempts to effect a search, the police in Phichit decided to follow the precedent of the Karun case, using a forklift to hoist the entire structure onto a low-loader, which transported the suspect to Bangkok at his convenience. This explains why CSD headquarters seems to have acquired a rustic outdoor loo.
As more and more CSD staff appeared in the car park, arguing over parking space, who had next use of the locksmith’s services and whose turn it was to use the loo, one enterprising villain saw an opportunity. While the police officers’ attention was diverted elsewhere, he quickly leapt from his cab, sprinted into the building and locked the doors behind him.
By the time the officers realized what had happened, they were locked out of their own offices. They had no option but to ask the courts for a search warrant for their own HQ.
The courts have asked for a few days to consider this. ‘We are not sure that we can issue a search warrant for government premises,’ said one judge who requested anonymity. ‘Authorizing the police to search their own station doesn’t seem very logical.’