BANGKOK — When 40 policemen found out earlier this week they were suspended from active duty, it wasn’t for insubordination or dereliction of duty. It was their haircuts.
The order to remove them from their posts was issued after they failed to meet an ultimatum they cut their hair to a uniform style that calls for the sides and backs of their heads to be shorn close, a police spokesman said Tuesday.
“First of all, police are civil servants who wear their uniforms properly. Their discipline is enforced by law,” Col. Krissana Pattanacharoen said. “Apart from the law, there’s also police regulations, which include wearing a neat and correct haircut.”
Police commissioner Chakthip Chaijinda first imposed the buzz cut back in November and last week reiterated that all police stations must comply with the new style. It requires policemen to shave the sides and back of the head until they are “white,” leaving a crop of “two or three inches” of hair on the top, hence its common name khao sam daan, or three white sides.
Inspectors from central command reportedly conducted unannounced inspections at random police stations across the country and found 40 violators in Bangkok, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Satun and Phang Nga provinces.
Asked why police are clamping down on requirement for a specific haircut, spokesman Krissana said the force has always been required to wear their hair short.
“It’s already in the disciplinary code, but we only got serious about it just now,” Krissana said.
He also disputed characterization of the newly imposed haircut as khao sam daan, but the term is in regular use and the chiefs of two police stations named in the transfer orders called it such.
‘Slow to Adjust’
The order, issued Sunday, instructed the officers to report to central police command. They were removed from active duty indefinitely until a new order states otherwise.
Phopthorn Jitman of Pathum Wan Police Station, where four officers were named in the transfers, said the four had complied with the new haircut – but it grew back.
“They already got a haircut, but it wasn’t white enough. The sides have to be white,” Col. Phopthorn said. “My subordinates already got the haircut, but it grew back, and the inspector found them like that.”
Phumisit Nawang, chief of Satun City Police Station, said four officers there were named in the order because some didn’t have time to get a haircut while others found it hard to adjust to the new buzz.
“They are slow to adjust themselves. I understand them,” Col. Phumisit said. “Some were on duty. I understand that police have to work 24 hours, in different shifts. But now that there’s stricter regulations, the discipline must come first.”
The station chief praised the new haircut, saying it made police look “tidy” when they are in uniform.
“I also got the haircut to be an example. I’m used to it. I had this haircut when I was a cadet,” he said. “When we wear the headgear, it looks good and tidy. We don’t look messy. We look fresh. It’s a good image.”
One recently retired police general said he’s still wearing the khao sam daan haircut even in his retirement.
Lt. Gen. Songpol Wattanachai, who served as police spokesman until last year, said he took example from the royal guards protecting King Vajiralongkorn, who are known for distinctive khao sam daan haircuts required by the monarch.
“It’s a royal practice,” Songpol said. “Let’s say we are all serving His Majesty the King. So it’s the same direction now. It looks beautiful … it’s good to have this short haircut. It doesn’t hurt anyone.”