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Thai police urged to prevent suicide in profession

Published:Tuesday | November 11, 2014 | 12:00 AM
A traffic policeman directs traffic during a rush hour in Bangkok, Thailand, yesterday.


Thai police said yesterday that steps were being taken to reduce rising suicide rates among officers, warning that senior police officials could face punishment if any of their subordinates kill themselves.

More than 170 Thai police officers committed suicide from 2008 to 2013, a rate that was higher than in previous years, said the assistant national police chief, Lieutenant General Prawut Thawornsiri. Forty-seven officers killed themselves in 2012, the highest yearly total since 2008. Among the most common causes of suicide were stress from work, debt, and health issues.

A hotline was set up last month for troubled officers to call and talk to psychologists, but access was limited to just two days a week. Prawut said the police were now looking to extend the hours to allow more access.

He also said that the national police chief, General Somyot Poompanmoung, has asked senior police officials to look for signs and behaviours that could lead to suicide among lower-ranking officers in their units and warned of the possible punishments. The penalties could range from bans on promotion and pay raises to changes in duties.

"This is in a bid to take care of the welfare of our police force," Prawut said. "If they can detect some irregular stress, they should take some preventive actions such as talking to the officers, giving them some days off, or switching them to other jobs temporarily."

Prawut cited the high pressure of the job and odd working hours as causes of stress among police officers, especially those with families.

Thailand's police suicide rate is about four times the national rate. Last year, 3,940 Thais committed suicide in a country of nearly 65 million.

Psychologists say police suicides are preventable if the signs are detected early.