Friday, May 02, 2008

Training with the Thai Tourist Police

With a Police Lieutenant Colonel

So, six months after handing in my application to join the Thai Tourist Police Volunteers, I finally received my invitation to a training seminar.

What should I expect? Well the initial application stage was fairly impressive. The staff checked my background with the embassy and the Immigration department. I know this because my interviewer said: "Oh you work at [name of my employer] my uncle is a director there". That seemed to go down well. Heck, I wasn't even recruited yet and already the nepotism was kicking in!

So with a 5am alarm call, I set off to Sukhumvit soi 5, wondering what I would learn from the boys in brown. The hotel venue itself was very decent, if nothing special. I was ushered into a large conference hall and presented with an information pack. Amongst leaflets and tourists guides there was a booklet that explained how to make a police report. The information itself was solid, but the translation was poor. I wondered how the Tourist Police could produce something like this, but I was about to discover things would get worse before they got better.

The event kicked off with a senior sergeant welcoming everybody and declaring the training session open. Suddenly some music began to blast and we all had to stand up and salute. The expression of the commander in front of me stopped me from smiling.

We then began a lecture on the role of tourism in Thailand. There was just one problem - it was all in Thai. There were about one hundred volunteers at the seminar. Less than ten of us were farang, the others were Burmese, Japanese or Chinese. Very few could understand what was being said.

Suddenly, a strikingly attractive young woman stood up and said something to a commander at the front. She then walked to the stage and was introduced as both "Miss Chicago" and "Miss Songkran", who would translate for us. And so she did, though I think some of the volunteers were a little distracted from the topic at hand.

After a coffee break, the next lecture was on "national security" and was presented by a lady called Porpharas. Khun Pornpharas was obviously a highly educated lady from an upper class family. Her speech was intelligent and articulate but the topics she addressed covered issues such as economics and the politics of immigration. For me it was interesting, but the body language of those around me told me they knew this was not exactly relevant for police volunteers.

After lunch we had a new officer and a new topic. We were treated to a slideshow of foreign criminals believed to be located in Thailand. It was interesting stuff and I was ready to blast Bob Marley's "Bad Boys" track on my iPod and hunt these guys down, but sadly our beauty queen had gone home and the talk was only in Thai. It was becoming clear now, the senior command in the Thai Tourist Police may be great people and great policemen, but they couldn't speak English.

Still, the overall feel of day one was good. This was largely down to a man call Senior Segeant Major Peter, who was almost a one man police force by himself. Throughout the day he had exchanged jokes, wise cracks, banter and pranks with both his fellow Thais and the volunteers. He had broken down the culture barrier and explained why Thailand needed foreign volunteers and how grateful the police were.

With "Peter"

Day two began on an interesting note as I was attacked while eating a sandwich at 'Subway' on Sukhumvit by a drunken prostitute who was upset that I wouldn't hand her my sandwich. Sadly, I had not yet received any training that would actually help me deal with the situation. Would today be different?

Luckily, the answer was yes. Our first lecture was in English and "Peter" explained to us the different codes that could be used on a police radio. He also threw in a few very helpful names and contact numbers that we could use when dealing with police in general.

The next talk was an exercise in incident reporting. This introduced me to Pierre, the TTP translator who explained how the reporting system should work.

After being given some more training booklets, it was time for the "awards" ceremony and some general mingling. I managed to talk with a few senior officers who seemed genuinely friendly, grateful and good natured. I also spoke with a long serving English volunteer who explained how I could receive further training and move "up the ladder" (yes, the volunteers also have a ranking system) starting with the Lions Club convention in Bangkok next month.

So after a few snapshots, receipt of my uniform and a few goodbyes, it was over.

The "awards" ceremony

The training was interesting. I got to meet some new people from around the world and make some friends in the Thai police. I do feel ready to start, but that is more down to my chance encounter with the long serving Englishman than any of the training I received.

But that seems to be Thailand through and through. There is far more focus on friendliness and welcomes than there is on actual skills training. That might suffice in most professions, but when you doing a job such as police support, you would want something a bit more efficient.

It also worried me that there was literally zero physical based training in the entire seminar. Other than a few questions on the application form about health, physical details and martial arts training, there was no defence involved at all.

However, it was clear that all applicants were carefully screened for their own backgrounds and paperwork. This was applied to everybody which I thought was good, though it was clear the Burmese contingent were being given the closest attention.

Still, I learned something, met some new people, made some friends and in time I will be able to do a lot to help visitors to Thailand. It was time well spent.


BangkokDan said...

Nice one! Tks for posting!

Anonymous said...

Why does the Tourist Police tolerate the scammers crowding thailand main tourist attractions?
Pictures here:

Joe P said...

How do you apply for the tourist police? I cant find an official site or anything. Any info would help...Thanks.

Red and White said...

Joe, give me your location, email and phone number (I won't publish them) and I'll arrange it for you.
You need a valid work permit and visa (non imm visa).


Khun said...

Hi Greg

I called the tourist police, they said they do not need any volunteers anymore. They stoped the project since more then a year.

I would really like to help out. As this is Thailand, I would like to know if you have any other info. Would be nice if you could let me know if the Tourist Police is still looking for Volunteers.

Thank you


Khun said...

Dear Greg

I calle the BKK Tourist Police HQ and they told me that they are not looking for any Foreign Volunteers anymore.

Do you have any other informations ?

Thank you


pancake said...

I'm interested in more info on how to become a volunteer too. Help appreciated



michael coo said...

i my names michael cooper an am looking to join the thai tourist police can u tell me how i can go about it if u cld pls email me at

become a police officer said...

Your interesting story is inspiring and encouraging. I can see that you are lucky enough to be in that job. Many people are looking for better opportunities and failed to do so. I hope that you will be committed to your jog as a tourist police officers.