Background and Biography of Pol.Col. Somphian Ek-somya: a Tragedy of the Royal Thai Police

Chaiyarong Maneepiluk

          The death of Pol.Col. Somphian Ek-somya, Director of Bannang Sata District Police Station, Yala Province, from ambush by bombing followed by shooting by weapons of war by the separatists in Baan Tab Chang, Tambon Taling Chan, while leading forces to pressure the insurgent collaborators as an "informant" notified him that "collaborators" of "the square-faced" or Yugimuri Jeh-dimae", an important leader active in 2 Amphoes (Districts), namely Bannag Sata District in Yala, and Sri Sakorn District in Narathiwat, consisted of 8 members with more than 10 arrest warrants, with a notable one being killing and tanning of Mr. Malae Mongadeng, former Village Chief, and 3 associates in Bannang Sata District, all of whom were Pol.Col Ek-somya's men.  The insurgent forces were brought into the area in late 2008 to cause terror in the area during the days before the political chaos in Bangkok.

          And that was the "last" operation of Pol.Col. Somphian Ek-somya, or "Sergeant Phian the Iron Leg", the nickname of a police officer who had defended the land and the people with his "life", giving a curtain call to the life of a warrior and a fighter of the Budo mountain range after more than 40 years of service.

           Pol.Col. Ek-somya was a graduate of the 15th intake of the 9th Division Provincial Police Academy, class of 1970.  After graduation, he served as the Commander of the Suppression Platoon and remained stationed at Bannang Sata Police Station, particularly during the time when the TM (Thai: ขจก), or the Terrorist Movement) became more violent in the area.  He folowed Pol.Lt.Col. Sanit Pianthong, Chief Detective of Bannang Sata Police Station (rank at the time) to suppress the TM and resulted in justified homicide of more than 100 justified homicides, causing fear among the terrorists. Cerca 1976, Pol.Sgt.Maj. Ek-somya clashed with terrorists under the command of Mr. Latae Cho-bantang in Moo 4, Tambon Bannang Sata, Bannang Sata District, and accidentally stepped on the terrorists' anti-personnel mine, nearly severing his left leg.  From his determination and success in suppressing the terrorists, he was awarded the Member of "The Rama Medal for Gallantry in Action" of the Honourable Order of Rama, and the Royal Thai Police provided a special quota in the Commissioned Officer Program without entrance examination.  After graduation, he was briefly transferred to the Immigration Police in Songkla Province for a period of time, before requesting transfer and remained in service in the Deep South, yet he received some complaints and must leave the 5 border provinces for a period of time.  After the incidents of unrest in 2004, Pol.Col. Somphian Ek-somya was requested to the area to suppress the insurgents in Bannang Sata District with the title of Director of Bannang Sata Police Station in 2007, using his experience and familiarity with the area to surround and search the insurgents, resulting in 22 justified homicides of criminals, yet he also was always the target of attacks by the opposite side.  The leader of the insurgents in the area announced a bounty of 1 million Baht and 40 goats on Pol.Col. Somphian's head to whoever could take his life.

        In addition, Pol.Col. Somphian Ek-somya also received royal decorations and certificates from many agencies, namely: 1. Freeman Safeguarding Medal (Second Class, First Category) ; 2. "Distinguished Combat Service" Certificate from the Ministry of the Interior; 3. Territory Defense Salutation Medal from the Ministry of the Interior; 4. Certificate of Honor for Protecting the Country with Sacrifice from the Veteran's Organization; 5. Certificate of Excellent Crime Suppression Service from the 9th Region Provincial Police Command; 6. Selected as Outstanding Alumus of the 9th Region Provincial Police Academy; 7. Letter of Recognition from the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Command (SPBAC), all of which recognize and praise him as a protector of national security, the prosperity of the land, and the peace and tranquility of the country with strength and sacrifice, etc.  After long and extensive service in the region, his family became concerned and request change of surname, while Pol.Col Ek-somya later requested a reversion to his old surname for himself, while his wife and children keep using the new surname.

        As for the achievements of Pol.Col. Somphian, since receiving an order to become the Director of Bannang Sata Police Station, the significant ones are as follow:

1. On 1 August 2007, Pol.Col.Somphian Ek-somya received report from a reliable source that terrorist criminals led by Mr.Suriming Pohsa and approximately 8-10 associates appeared and held a meeting at a house without number, Moo 5, Tambon Bannang Sata, Amphoe Bannang Sata, Yala Province, property of Mr. Isman Braheng, to plan terror attacks in the area.  Pol.Col. Ek-somya then gather forces to plan the arrest of the mentioned insurgents.  As the target house was located in the village on a narrow dirt road and its entrance and exit points were surrounded by other villagers' houses, which were also likely to be insurgents, there was a high risk of being ambush.  Therefore, the operation required speed, agility, teamwork, and must proceed according to the tactics in the shortest time possible.  The operation resulted in the death of 5 insurgents, 5 firearms and a large amount of supply were confiscated, while all police officers were safe.
2. On 18 August 2007 at approximately 0600 hours, Pol.Col Ek-somya joined forces to arrest target subjects in Taloh-Sumae Village, Amphoe Krong-pinang, Yala Province, and exchanged fire with the terrorists for approximately 5 minutes, resulting in one dead insurgent, one confiscated 11-mm pistol, while the police officers were safe.
3. On 30 October 2007, Pol.Col. Ek-somya brought officers to track and arrest criminals at Moo 2, Kulong Village, Tambon Taling Chan, Amphoe Bannang Sata, Yala Province, according to reliable sources and exchanged fire with the terrorists for approximately 20 minutes.  There were 2 insurgents dead at the scene, 1 pistol was confisated along with a number of supplies.

4. On 29 January 2008 at approximately 1600 hrs, Pol.Col. Ek-somya joined forces with the military and the administration to pursue criminals in the area of Buka Sakae Village, Moo 1, Tambon Bacho, Amphoe Bacho, Yala Province, and exchanged fire with the terrorists, resulting in the death of Pol.Sgt.Maj.Sorasakdi Raknai, Plat.Cmdr.(Suppression), Bannang Sata District Police Station, by gunshot wound, as well as 1 dead criminal, later identified as Mr.Sulaiman Apibanbae, a high-priority suspect according to arrest warrants of Yala Provincial Court for many cases.
5. On 19 April 2008, after receiving report from reliable source on 18 April 2008 that insurgents led by Mr.Hayizagariya Hayisamoh, a key insurgent leaders, and approximately 13 associates appeared and were hiding in the area of Tuerah Village, Moo 8, Tambon Bannang Sata, Amphoe Bannang Sata, Yala Province, Pol.Col. Ek-somya joined 3 combined forces to surround and search the target area.  The operation was difficult as the area and the premises were full of insurgent collaborators.  Thus the tactic was changed to moving forces across the Pattani River, which was located opposite the target, in order to eliminate chances ot make warnings.  Pol.Col. Ek-somya then led forces across the Pattani River using river raft and floated together across the strong tide and extreme danger from exchanging fire with insurgents in a situation where the authorities were not at an advantage.  One opponent was killed and identified as Mr.Paosi Alimoh, a key collaborator who had caused incidents in many areas.
6. On 23 May 2008 at approximately 0630 hrs, Pol.Col. Ek-somya joined forces to follow and apprehend criminals in the area of Bacho Village, Moo 2, Tambon Bacho, Amphoe Bannang Sata, Yala Province, and exchanged fire resulting in 1 death on the insurgents, later identified as Mr.Ma Waedoni, aged 24, and one 9mm pistol was confiscated.  Eight (8) police officers were wounded.
7. On 23 June 2008, Pol.Col. Ek-somya received report from a reliable source that insurgents who ambushed Airborne Border Patrol Police resulting in 1 death and 5 injuries on the police side was hiding behind the Bang Klang Village, Moo 3, Tambon Bacho, Amphoe Bannang Sata, Yala Province, and joined forces between the police, the military, and defense volunteers to pursue the insurgents by using 4 operation teams.  Later, at 1605 hrs, the 3rd operation team exchanged fire with the insurgents, resulting in 1 death on the opposing side, later identified as Mr.Maronlee Atarach.  At 0700 hrs, the 2nd operation team exchanged fire with the criminals and resulted in 1 additional death among the criminals, later identified as Mr.Koseng Apibanbae.  The confrontation went on continuously until 1200 hrs, Pol.Col.Ek-somya request support from nearby units and was able to assassinate 4 additional insurgent leaders, anmely Mr.Mohammadsaki Ga-ngo, Mr.Isma-ae Alimama, Mr.Wae-ali Sama-ae, and Mr.Dori Dalo.  Four (4) police officers were injured.

        Knowing that his increasing age was an obstacle in the fight against the insurgents in the area and patrolling on his 2 feet that were not as strong as before, Pol.Col. Ek-somya wished to transfer himself out of the Deep South.  The notion had been mentioned to Pol.Gen.Adul Saengsingkaew, a high-level commanding offer who also agreed and supported the idea and said to Pol.Col.Ek-somya that "...I also with to see you retire in perfect condition, not in a wheelchair." and asked Pol.Col.Ek-somya where he wished to relocate.  Pol.Col. Ek-somya then replied that he wished to become the Director of Kantang District Police Station in Trang Police for 2 reasons: 1. It was his wife's hometown, 2. Pol.Col. Term Intasara, Director of Kantang District Police Station and Former Director of Kabang District Police Station and Su-ngai Kolok District Police Station, had retired.  Pol.Gen. Saengsingkaew wrote a note to Pol.Lt.Gen. Wirayuth Sithimalik, Deputy Commander of the 9th Region Provincial Police responsible for Trang Police and to Pol.Lt.Col. Phira Poompicheth to ask his opinions.  Pol.Col. Sithimalik replied that he had no objection in transferring Pol.Col. Ek-somya from the Southern Border Provinces Police Operation Center.  Lastly, Pol.Gen. Saengsingkaew wrote a note to Pol.Gen. Pateep Tanprasert, Acting National Police Chief and before the transfer list became official, the name of Pol.Col. Ek-somya appeared on the list in the media that he had been transferred to become the Director of Meung District Police Station of Trang Province, a post that had been without a director for more than 9 months as Pol.Col. Nukul Kraithong, Director of Meung District Police Station of Trang Province had been transferred to the position of Deputy Commander of Trang Provincial Police as well as the acting director of the former station.  However, when the Appointment and Transfer List was officially announced, the name of Pol.Col. Ek-somya was nowhere to be found.
        Thus this is the issue that created a feeling of inferiority and disappointment to Pol.Col. Ek-somya that he went to Mr.Abhisit Vejjajiwa, Prime Minister, and Pol.Gen. Pateep Tanprasert, Acting National Police Chief, together with his award plaques and certificates that he had earned to present to the media and created sensational news.  Afterwards, Pol.Col. Ek-somya traveled back to work as the people's police officer at Bannang Sata District Police Station until his eventual death.
        Before Pol.Col. Ek-somya used his flesh and blood to paint the land and gave his life in the line of duty, he spoke his mind to the author (Chaiyarong Maneepiluk) that he believed that cops with strings would always be in a good posting, cops with money would always be in a good posting, so cops with good deeds should b in a good posting as well, and he believed that he should have been in a good position as he had always done good deeds in his entire police officer career.  However, when his name was not on the transfer list, he felt frustrated and neglected.  Pol.Col. Ek-somya revealed that the "boss" whom he respected and was helping him with the transfer out of the area said that "I'm sorry, I hae tried my best, but some 'bosses' needed cash and did not really want people with 'skills'".
        The intention of Pol.Col. Ek-somya, in his words before he ended his life as a hero in the middle of a battlefield, was to spend the remaining 20 months of his servicelife outside of the Deep South, working in a pleasant environment without the need to be stressed and careful in every step he took.  Moving to Trang Province was not intended to be in a comfortable posting or for personal interest, but he wanted it to be a "gift" for his wife, as throughout their marriage "Sergeant Phian" was always working and did not have time for his family like other married couples.  Another dream of "Sergeant Phian" after retirement was to do the things that he wanted for himself, which was to "sip tea and gossip on friends", or living a relaxing life like everyday people.

            The memory of Pol.Col. Ek-somya in the mind of his wife and soulmate, Mrs. Pimchana Phuwapongpithak, was that through all times, Pol.Col. Ek-somya had devoted his entire life to solve the problem in the Deep South.  She had also kept in mind that one day something might go wrong in the line of duty, but Pol.Col. Ek-somya was able to live through more than 40 years of service.  She felt sorry for what happened to her husband, and for the lack of compassion from high-level superior in his posting transfer.  She wished tat the National Police Headquarter would see the importance of police officers at all levels in the Deep South and not abandon them like children of mistresses.  For more than 3 years at Bannang Sata, Pol.Col. Ek-somya never took a day of, whether it was the New Year, Songkhran (Thai New Year), or other holidays, unlike other police officers who took theirs.  Before his life ended, after knowing that he did not get the transfer that he wanted, Pol.Col. Ek-somya muttered that "They must be thinking of giving me the General rank when I died", and it really did turned out so.

          While Pol.Lt. Tam Loisathuen, Deputy Detective for Suppression, Chief of the Special Suppression Team, Bannang Sata District Police Station, one of the officers working closely with Pol.Col. Ek-somya, said that Pol.Col. Ek-somya was a role model for all police officers.  He was brave, decisive, thorough, loving of his men, never took cover behind his men, did more work and took more risk.  The Director was everything to Bannang Sata DPS and was the heart and morale of all his subordinates.  It had never come to mind men like Director Ek-somya would depart in this manner.  From now on, all police officers at Bannang Sata DPS would be in a big burden without a good "boss" like Pol.Col. Ek-somya.

           Meanwhile, PO1. Poramet Chansaeng, Defence Deputy for Bannang Sata District said of working with Director Ek-somya that he always heard the Director muttering about how the command took care of the police officers, particularly on whether the rank of general would be given before retirement [probably in reference to death in the line of duty - translator].  From his words, it could be said that the Director demanded very little in comparison to his service record throughout his entire career.  He complained that throughout his life in the service, he never had a chance to be near his family.  He was concerned about the situation in the area if he transferred out, he was concerned that the work of the new chief would be different from his, particularly with his men who might become divided into factions according to their masters, which would cause a decrease in morale.  For him, he wanted the care from his commanding officers when he was still living: there was not use taking care of a dead person.

          The Defense Deputy for Bannang Sata District said that Pol.Col. Ek-somya put more than 100% of his heart out for his work without any hidden interests, making more villagers become more cooperative and become security officials as everyone wanted to be the right-hand or the left-hand man of the Director.  The Defense Deputy for Bannang Sata also had sympathy for the Director's work as he knew that the Director had hypertension.  When the Deputy and the Director went to work together, the Director always had to carry medication with him and when the symptom relapsed, the Director must stopped patrolling for a period of time, then continue the patrol once the symptom disappeared.  The Director also had a good understanding about working with the administrative authorities and the role of defense volunteers (DVs) as he mentioned that he had worked with DVs since he was still a non-commissioned police officer.

          PO1. Chansaeng said that in his work, as he was in charge of security jointly with the police and the military, when an event like this occurred, it gave him a feeling of despair.  However, when the thought about his duty and responsibility came to mind, he realized that he must follow his superior's order to the best of his ability.  He admitted that his work could not even match just half of what Director Ek-somya did but he kept an eye on how the superiors took care of the morale of the personnel and told himself that his superiors must be trying to take care of those in the Deep South to the best of their ability as well.

          Pol.Gen. Adul Saengsingkaew, สบ.10, in charge of the Southern Border Provinces Police Operation Center, said that the loss of Director Ek-somya was a great loss of the country and the Royal Thai Police.  As he had worked in the Deep South for many years, he found that there were few police officers like Pol.Col. Ek-somya, those who sacrificed all happiness for their duties and never stop in finding solutions to problems and in preventing and suppressing crime to create peace and tranquility to the people in the area under their care despite all the lack of resources.  Pol.Gen. Saengsingkaew also said that he was sorry and that he had tried his best to move Pol.Col. Ek-somya out of the Bannang Sata District Police Station but his effort was not successful.  He was sorry for the Royal Thai Police, for Director Ek-somya's family, and for the villagers of Bannang Sata who lost Pol.Col. Ek-somya.

          Today, Pol.Col. Ek-somya had given his life in the battlefield under his own motto of "be in peace, citizens, I shall protect you from harm".  He was a warrior police officer who died with dignity and only left questions about the Royal Thai Police Headquarters as to why he could not be transferred out of the 3 southern border provinces when the Appointment and Transfer List on 25 January 2010, signed by Pol.Lt.Gen. Wirayuth Sithimalik, Deputy Commander of the 9th Region Provincial Police, had more than 20 police transferring out of the 3 southern border provinces to take up positions in the 9th and the 8th regions.  Why other people were given good opportunities even though their performance was not outstanding, yet Pol.Col. Ek-somya did not have such opportunity?  For this question, an answer must be given to the people and the family of Pol.Col. Ek-somya so that the soul of a brave police officer such as "Sergeant Phian, the Iron Leg" would rest in peace without worry.  Otherwise, it would be a "brand of sin" on those who are the "bosses" until it was their turn for be beneath the ground.