11 July 2024

Thailand’s new police chief, Pol General Torsak Sukvimol, is a non-cadet who joined the force at the age of 33, but then quickly rose through the ranks.

Torsak, 59, is the 14th commissioner-general of the Royal Thai Police since the force was upgraded from the Police Department in 1998.

He was selected in a vote by the Police Commission, chaired by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, on September 27, replacing Pol General Damrongsak Kittipraphat whose compulsory retirement came at the end of September. Torsak’s appointment won royal endorsement on September 30.

The commission’s decision came shortly after media reported the selection of a new police chief had been postponed, with the most senior candidate, Roy Ingkapairoj, standing in as caretaker. However, just hours later, all but one member of the Police Commission voted for Torsak – the fourth and least senior candidate – to become the new police chief.

The move came amid criticism that Torsak was not the best candidate for the post. Former deputy national police chief Pol General Aek Angsananont, the commission member who voted against Torsak, said the appointment was not in line with existing rules and regulations. He said he refused to be influenced by anyone and had chosen the candidate who would best benefit the police force and the country.

Another critic of the appointment was former national police chief Pol General Sereepisuth Temeeyaves, now the leader and only MP of the Thai Liberal Party (Seri Ruam Thai). Sereepisuth said Torsak’s rapid rise had come at the expense of his colleagues in the force. Without his fast-track promotions, Torsak would now be a deputy commander with a rank no higher than a colonel, he added.

 

Brother with Palace links

The soft-spoken Torsak is known to be media-shy and has a reputation for leading a simple life and practicing meditation. Unlike most other top police commanders, he is not a graduate of the Royal Police Cadet Academy.

The new police chief was born on January 27, 1964, in Phetchaburi province as the youngest of five siblings.

Among his elder brothers is ACM Satitpong Sukvimol, private secretary to His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn, as well as grand chamberlain of the Royal Household Bureau and director-general of the Crown Property Bureau. Satitpong also chairs the executive board of many companies, including Siam Bioscience, Deves Insurance, and Doi Kham Food Products.

Torsak graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from Thammasat University and a master’s from Sripatum University.

He began his career at the petroleum company Caltex, where he reportedly earned almost 100,000 baht a month. He quit after seven years with the oil company to pursue his childhood dream of being a police officer.

In late 1997, he attended a training course for non-graduates of the Royal Police Cadet Academy to become commissioned officers.

 

Pursuing his childhood dream

Torsak joined the police force in February 1998 at the age of 33, serving as a deputy inspector at the Patrol and Special Operation Division.

Two years later, he became a deputy inspector at the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), where he worked for 17 years. He was promoted to the rank of inspector and then deputy commander of the CSD, overseeing important tasks such as crowd control, special commando operations, and security for royal family members.

In May 2016, he became a superintendent with the rank of police colonel.

Over the past five years, Torsak continued to rise quickly through the hierarchy, following a series of “fast-track promotions” that appeared to bypass Police Commission regulations.

In March 2018, he was appointed deputy commander of the CSD.

In October of the same year, he became commander of the Police Royal Guards 904 Division, which is attached to the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), despite the rule that this position is reserved for candidates who have served as deputy commander for at least five years.

In 2019, Torsak was appointed deputy commissioner of the CIB, rising to commissioner in October 2020 even though he was one of the least senior candidates.

He was promoted to assistant national police chief in 2021, deputy chief last year, and now police chief.

After being appointed CIB commissioner three years ago, Torsak admitted he never thought he would “come this far”. Now he has risen even higher and reached the top post in his profession – just 25 years from his first day as a policeman.

 

By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk