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Thailand to recruit first women police officers

Category: Gender in the world 
2009-01-28

Thailand's Royal Police Academy is admitting female cadets for the first time in its 107 year history, but it will be four years before they graduate and start work. 

The 250,000 strong Thai police force has only a small number of women members, all of them in office support and computer roles.

The first class of female cadets will include just 70 students and has attracted hundreds of applicants. After four years of training including military style courses in parachuting and jungle survival the successful among them will graduate as sub-lieutenants.

They will then be assigned to cases involving women and children.

"Female victims of crime will feel more comfortable with a female officer," said Police Lieutenant General Amarin Akarawong, the academy's director, explaining the radical break with tradition.

Some of the female hopefuls have other aspirations for their police careers. "I want to arrest drug traffickers in [my home district of] Surat Thani," 18 year old Kanokwan Pankaew told the Bangkok Post.

"There are many drug users and sellers in my community."

Kanokporn Niyom, also 18 years old, who travelled hours by bus to submit her application, said she wanted to join the police to combat political corruption. "The country would be much better without corrupt politicians," she said. "Women can do more than a desk job. We are as capable as men."

To be accepted onto the course applicants must run a kilometre in under seven minutes and swim 50 metres in three minutes.

"I have improved my fitness since last November when I learned that the academy will take female students. I swim and run every week," said Miss Kanokporn.

Thailand has 1,444 police stations and senior officers ultimately hope to have one woman officer at every station. At the proposed rate of recruitment that goal will take many years to realise and Thailand's first women police officers will initially be posted only to major centres.

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