In Thailand they don’t just have the normal police force. They also have Tourist Police, Railway Police and Immigration Police. They all have much the same arresting power as normal police, but they don’t do investigative work. Many also carry guns. Today I met up with some tourist police at their headquarters at the top of Hua Hin beach.
Tourist Police are seen at major tourist destinations around Thailand such as Phuket, Krabi, Bangkok, Pattaya and Bangkok. There are also see at major airports and any big event that attracts tourists. This police force is here to serve both foreign and Thai tourists. If you are ever in need of their help, you can call their hotline on 1155 – the lines are open 24 hours a day.
At the Hua Hin office, they have a staff of 18 officers. At first I thought that was for the holiday town of Hua Hin alone. But they also have to look after tourists in Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkhram, Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan where Hua Hin is situated. Like in Phuket and Pattaya, they also have a group of foreign volunteers to help. This boosts the numbers by a further ten people.
The volunteer tourist police officers come from all around the world. Most seem to be either European or American. But, as China is sending more and more tourists every year, there has been a need for Chinese volunteers. In Hua Hin, help came from the local university that sends students to help as and when they are needed. For other volunteers, they are either working locally or are retired.
The work of the volunteer police is not as glamours as it may sound. Most of their work involves translating. There is no detective work or hunting down criminals. Its more like helping people who have lost their wallet or cannot find their way back to their hotel. These volunteers are thankful that they don’t have to deal with bar fights or unruly characters like in Pattaya across the Gulf of Thailand.
Anyone can apply to be a tourist police volunteer. In places where there are few in number like in Hua Hin, it is much easier than say in Phuket or Pattaya. To apply you need to be an adult and prove yourself to be fit and able. You need someone to vouch for your character. They also take your fingerprints and do a background check with the police and immigration. However, they don’t seem to do a check in your home country to see if you have a criminal record.
Some tourist police volunteers have retired in Hua Hin. Some are only there for half a year at a time. It doesn’t really matter. Some may only go in after work or at the weekends. Others may only put on their uniform if there is a big event like the recent Jazz Festival on the beach. It seems that any help is appreciated in helping the tourist police communicate with various nationalities. So, the more languages you speak, the better the chances of you being recruited.
In Hua Hin they give you a uniform for free which includes a patch with the flag of your country. Other areas like Phuket you are expected to pay for your own uniform. None of the volunteers get paid. Nor are they given a travel allowance. You are also not given help with your visa. You need a Non Immigrant ‘B’ or ‘A’ Visa before you apply. Apparently volunteers are exempt from having a work permit.
Personally I think I would be interested to volunteer for something like this. Helping tourists is something that I do a lot anyway. Either through typing these blogs or by physically offering help when I see tourists on the street. But, I’m not sure if it is something that I could do regularly. It is always nice to have variety. What about you, have you thought about joining up or are you already serving as a tourist police volunteer?