BANGKOK—Sometimes it seems the only thing more common than a traffic jam in Thailand’s capital is a fat police officer trying to solve it—and the traffic scene in Metro Manila is not far off.
While not much can be done about the clogged roads, an effort is under way to whip Thailand’s potbellied policemen in shape with the start of a 12-day boot camp this week.
About 60 of the overweight officers from around the country are taking part in the dawn-to-dusk exercise and lecture programs on living more healthy at a police training center in a Bangkok suburb.
Wearing T-shirts with “Get rid of the belly” on them, they start their days with pre-dawn jogs followed by yoga, aerobic dance classes, tai chi (a Chinese exercise system) to reduce stress and improve blood flow, and lectures from nutritionists and trainers.
P6,950 for the winner
The biggest weight loser at the end of the program wins 5,000 baht ($160—or about P6,950), a bonus for underpaid police officers though many say their real motivation is the chance to improve their health.
“The schoolchildren call me ‘Uncle Fat’ all the time, but I don’t mind. I’m more concerned about my health, because I have diabetes,” said Sgt. Maj. Wanchat Phonorthong, a 49-year-old traffic officer who weighs 133 kilograms (293 lbs) and is 185 centimeters (six feet) tall.
“I’m going to lose some of my belly because they have me work out every day and they only give me half the food I usually eat. It’s torture but I have to do it for myself,” he said.
Annual checkups last year for Thailand’s 200,000 police officers showed that the five most common concerns were obesity, high cholesterol, liver problems, high blood pressure and diabetes.
“Police officers tend to have higher health risks than some other professions because they don’t eat and sleep on a normal schedule. Eating at the end of late-night shifts, drinking and smoking all contribute to their obesity,” said Col. Pornpen Bunnag, who designed the course and heads the Family Medicine Department at Bangkok’s Police General Hospital.
“Not only that, their potbellies affect their personalities, and make them look less smart in their uniforms,” she said.
Overweight cops in Crame
In comparison, an Inquirer story last year said that more than half of the personnel at the Philippine National Police headquarters were overweight and one in 10 was obese.
Specifically, 3,283 officers and workers at Camp Crame were overweight, while 588 were obese. There were 6,253 members of the PNP stationed at Camp Crame from a total workforce of about 140,000 nationwide last year.
The PNP data have yet to be updated. AP, with a report from Nikko Dizon