11 July 2024

Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda has never held a political post let alone contested for one. Yet, his entry in the upcoming Bangkok governor’s race – if confirmed – will send a chill down the spines of any seasoned politician interested in contesting the same election.

Earlier this month, Chakthip revealed he was thinking of jumping into the gubernatorial race and already had policies in mind. “I have not yet made a final decision, though. I also don’t know at this point if I will run as an independent or under a party’s banner,” he said.

Several political parties were trying to woo Chakthip even before he retired as national police chief on September 30. It is widely reported that the top cop is a target of Democrat, Bhumjaithai and Palang Pracharath parties.

The reason is simple: Chakthip is popular with the Thai public, earning not just constant media coverage but also much praise for his exploits in law enforcement.

Top gun in the frontline

Chakthip, Thailand’s 11th national police commissioner, is not the type of man who enjoys giving orders from an ivory tower. Stark evidence of this came to light in February when photos showed him entering Korat’s Terminal 21 mall on a mission to rescue people from a gun-toting soldier who killed 31 shoppers and injured 57 others.

Back in 2018, Chakthip trekked the forested mountains of Chiang Rai province in search of a young football team that had gone missing during a flash flood. Although the Wild Boar boys would finally be saved by an international rescue team, the public noticed Chakthip’s dedicated work.

A decade before, Chakthip – then deputy Bangkok police chief – received massive media attention when he removed his shirt to provide first aid to anti-government yellow-shirt protesters injured by teargas fired during the Somchai Wongsawat-led administration. Reporters dubbed him “Gentleman Teargas” for his efforts.

Judging by other exploits, Chakthip is equipped with brains as well as brawn. Among several high-profile cases he has solved was the shocking mass murder of a village head’s family in Krabi province in 2017.

Supportive wife

Chakthip says he owes much of his success to his supportive and patient wife, Dr Busaba Chaijinda. “She is the type of wife who does not worry me with things at home,” he said. “That’s how I can focus on work.”

The former police chief also revealed that Busaba, daughter of Sripathum University’s founder, has never interfered in his work. Meanwhile, his wife says she often learns about her husband’s bravery through news reports.

Chakthip met Busaba while they were studying for their master’s degrees at Kentucky State University in the United States. The couple have two sons, one of whom has followed in Chakthip’s footsteps and joined the Royal Thai Police.

Police career, super connections

After leaving Vajiravudh College, Chakthip attended the Royal Police Cadet Academy. When he joined the ranks of at least 70,000 commissioned police officers in his 20s, Chakthip admitted that he had never dreamed about becoming Thailand’s top cop.

However, by the time he became a captain, he realised he was well ahead most of his peers from the academy. Though political conflicts stalled his career advancement from time to time (he was once assigned to head a police-dog unit), he quickly climbed the ladder.

By 2000, he was Samut Songkhram’s police chief. The following year, he became deputy commander of the Marine Police Division. In 2003, he was appointed Crime Suppression Division’s deputy commander, while 2008 saw him promoted to deputy metropolitan police commissioner.

By 2010, he was the top man at the Metropolitan Police Bureau, before moving on to become chief of Provincial Police Region 9 the year after. In 2012, he became assistant national police commissioner.

In 2014, the year General Prayut Chan-o-cha led a successful coup, Chakthip was appointed deputy national police commissioner. He then rose to the national police chief’s post in 2015, retiring in September this year.

Known for his sense of humour and coordination skills, Chakthip has cultivated strong ties with powerful men. Among them are Prayut, Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon, and General Apirat Kongsompong, deputy director of the Crown Property Bureau.

By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk