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Chiang Mai's farang cops
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  1. #1
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    Sep 2002
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    Chiang Mai's farang cops

    Chiang Mai's farang cops
    The Nation, 5th Match 2006

    The possibilities of the latest initiative by the Royal Thai Police going wrong are endless.

    Virtually untrained foreigners – in uniform complete with baton and handcuffs – out on the streets with all the appearance of authority, but in possession of none, conjures up all sorts of nasty scenarios.

    There are 60 tourist police in Chiang Mai, only two of whom are officers. The department is under-budgeted and the majority of the policemen don’t even speak English. In September it was decided that resident foreigners would be recruited to assist the tourist police on a voluntary basis.

    The Tourist Police Foreign Volunteer programme now has more than 40 members from 20 countries, including Japan, Britain, Uruguay, the United States, South Korea and Canada.

    Many are missionaries, others retirees, some professionals such as doctors, photographers and writers, with a sprinkling of business owners and entrepreneurs in the ranks. Each has his or her (there are three women) own reason for joining. While most claim altruism, it’s hard to believe that some don’t spend a few hours at home in front of the mirror practising their salute and fast draw. I would.

    Candidates must attend a one-day course on basic scenarios, problems and guidelines. The Immigration Department checks for valid work and residency permits and criminal records. Then it’s a couple of field trips to the local tourist sites, a visit to the uniform shop, Bt3,000 for the full kit-and-caboodle and Bob’s your policeman.

    “These volunteers are not here to fight crime,” says Pol Lt Col Nattawut Chotikanjanawat, inspector of the Chiang Mai Tourist Police. “They are here to serve as an intermediary between tourists and the Thai culture and police. They translate between various languages and Thai, they teach our tourist police to speak English, they tell tourists where to find certain things, or what to do under various situations.

    “We stress the importance of calling for backup and of never getting involved in a dangerous situation, and they always patrol in pairs.”

    Each volunteer can choose to work as a translator, teacher, sit behind the police desk and offer advice or pound the streets. Some volunteers work one to two hours per week, others spend days in uniform. It’s a very informal arrangement.

    “I simply love helping people,” says Marilyn Khopang, a US citizen raised in Burma and working for a Presbyterian church in Chiang Mai since 1974.
    “It gives me and my husband joy to meet people and be able to offer them help and advice,” she tells me in fluent Thai.

    “I think every country in the world should have this service,” says her colleague in blue, Steve Kramer, a photographer.

    “When foreigners come to a country that’s very different from their own and experience a stressful situation, that stress can be exacerbated to the point that they can’t deal logically with a problem. We help provide a buffer zone to reduce their stress. I think we’re providing an important service which genuinely benefits Chiang Mai’s tourism.

    “Some people may want to join this programme under a misguided notion of getting to play Batman and Robin, but the reality is not so glamorous. When we walk down Ratchadamnoen Road during the Sunday Walking Street, we spend most of our time answering such mundane questions as ‘where is the bathroom’ or ‘where can I exchange my currency’.”

    There are moments requiring more than a passing grade in French and the knowledge of where the Tha Pae Gate latrines are located.

    On one of his morning rounds, Kramer came across two Swiss girls – scraped and bruised from a snatch-and-grab – crying in their guesthouse.

    They’d lost their passports and credit cards and feared that they wouldn’t make the next full-moon party. Kramer acted as facilitator with the police, taking the girls to report the crime, then called the Swiss embassy in Bangkok to request a special pickup of the passports on a Saturday so the girls could get to Koh Pang-ngan by Tuesday.

    Joel Khopang, Marilyn’s husband, was in the station one day when a 23-year-old Briton came in to report a lost camera. He signed the report regardless of being warned numerous times that it was illegal to file a false report. Going on instinct, Joel and some tourist police went to the man’s hotel room, only to find the said camera tucked away in the cupboard.

    The judge handed the lying Brit a 30-day sentence.

    “Many visitors from Japan and Korea don’t speak Thai or English,” says Noritoshi Urano of Chiang Mai’s Japanese-language Vieng magazine. “To be able to ask for help from a native speaker is a very valuable thing.

    “There are 2,500 registered Japanese residents and more than 100,000 Japanese visitors to Chiang Mai every year. That is a lot of people who could get into trouble without being able to communicate. There are two Japanese volunteers now but we need many more. We also need Korean volunteers.”
    While in places like Pattaya and Phuket, where there are foreign gangs and criminals and the tourist police are active in solving crimes, in gentle Chiang Mai their role tends to be more akin to public relations.

    But expat residents of a few months offering untrained advice to tourists? Criminals and undesirables dressed in uniform offering children lollipops and a hand to find lost parents? Farang with bravado stepping into the middle of a knife fight? Men in uniform getting a few special perks?

    These are all very real possibilities, of which the tourist police and volunteers are not unaware.

    “Because we have to go out in pairs at all times, accompanied by a tourist police officer, I think that we have minimised the potential for problems,” Kramer says.

    Things can go wrong, but it’s a risk the volunteers know and have agreed to take. Maybe the project is simply more police propaganda, soon to be dropped like so many others. Perhaps the screening and training processes are still flawed and numerous mistakes will be made over the coming months or years.

    But most residents agree that the programme should be given a chance. There may be no structure, but their sincerity is worn on their sleeve – along with their names, volunteer badge and national flag.

    The scheme has raised interest in Pattaya, Phuket and other tourist destinations.

    Our local boys and girls in blue are being closely watched, and if the programme becomes successful it will not only be a feather in the caps of the Royal Thai Police and the Tourism Authority of Thailand, but something to help numerous tourists each year return home with a smile.

    The Chiang Mai Tourist Police are looking for a further 60 volunteers. The only requirements are that applicants have a work permit or residency status and no criminal record. Call 1155 or (053) 278 559 for more information.
    Lt Col Nattawut has also asked for donations of bicycles for the men and women in blue.

    Pim Kemasingki
    Chiang Mai

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Los Angeles, CA, USA
    Thanked 640 Times in 328 Posts
    What a great idea! Who better to help foriegners with their problems than other foreigners, with the help of Thai authorities.
    Life is learning. If you stop learning, you might as well be dead.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post

    Now, This Is Thailand!

    From what i know through the grapevine:

    At least one of these volunteer police officers is running his own freelance business in Chiang Mai while running back and forth to the border every 30 days to renew his visa.

    What a shambles! the guy is obviously working illegally to the knowledge of the authorities while voluteering as a law-enforcer at the same time!

    Then on top of that - this guy also has a criminal record in Thailand!

    Think about it though........excellent ploy! You know you are in danger of getting caught for breaking the terms of your visa - so what do you do? We have a term for it in English but i don't want to repeat it here! - Stories and Photos about Life in Thailand

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Sydney Australia
    Thanked 281 Times in 224 Posts
    What a good hobby for a farang, helping tourist, they certainly deserve more money for doing that.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Berlin / GERMANY
    Thanked 714 Times in 438 Posts
    I have seen these Expats as Police Volunteers already in Pattaya and Phuket/Patong Beach for many many years.
    My interesting blog about Thailand at Thailand Blog ---> click here

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    i need to sign up for that! need to get me some of them cuffs. and arrest some unruely persons....

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2006
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    with love Chiangmai Tourist Police, Thank You


    My name is Clive Rodgers, and I am from England.

    I first visited Chiangmai in 1999, as at the time I was working for my Employers Rolls-Royce Marine in Bangkok.

    Since I returned to England in 2000, I have come to Chiangmai three times each year, staying for about three weeks on each visit.

    There were two reasons I came to Chiangmai so often, the first being I like the friendliness of the Thai people and love the countryside in the area. The second, well I am sure you can guess, I became friendly with a Thai lady.

    I always stayed at The Royal Princess Hotel, which is close to the Night Market. I was so impressed by the friendliness, the cleanliness of the hotel and service, it became my second home. They also made my Thai friend very welcome.

    Walking around the Night Market, I often saw the Tourist Police patrolling, and their office in that area, and was comforted by their presence, but I never thought that one day I would need their help.

    I took early retirement from Rolls-Royce and moved to Thailand in November 2005. In January 2006 with my Thai partner who I had known since 1999 and trusted, and loved so much, I bought a house and put it in her name.

    The house I bought was extended at both the front and back and the interior renovated, we had decided to set up an Internet Café. The house was situated in a good location, close to the Universities.

    I, through my Thai partner bought PC's, Printer and main server, and everything after many set backs was ready to open the Business. I even bought a small car for us to share, once again, it was in her name.

    I had an argument with her farther and all the PC's and the car were stolen by her and her family, this is when I went to see a Lawyer and had my first involvement with The Tourist Police (TPD)

    I was surprised that the staff consisted of dual nationalities, there were staff there from Japan, France ,U.S.A, and Singapore just to name a few countries. I thought they would all be Thai and would not be able to speak English, how wrong I was.

    Since I contacted them and informed them of my problems, they have been to my Lawyer with me, spoke to my ex partner to try to reconcile, and have helped in many other ways including with Government Departments, that I found were difficult for a Farang (foreigner) to do.

    Their kindness and concern for my situation is something that I will never be able to repay, and I would have been completely lost without their help and assistance.

    The TDP also work in all the areas that are frequented by Tourists, bars disco's, karaoke, and the shopping malls just to name a few. They are very easy to contact, and their response is first class.

    As Tourists were all do stupid things because we are relaxing from the pressures at home, but if they can assist they will do their best to resolve the situation.

    Please remember that the Tourist Industry in Chiangmai is the 'Bread and Butter' for many families, without tourism they would have no income.

    Chiangmai needs tourists this is why the TPD was established to assist them at their time of need.

    It's like the insurance policy you take out but hope you never need. Write the telephone number in your diary - 1155, they are available 24 hours per day

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    North Carolina
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post
    Sorry to hear of your problems, Clive. Hope everything works out for you and your partner.

    Families, you luv em and you hate them!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    land of the long white cloud
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post
    wow, lucky you are not marrying her father, aye ????

    shit happens, but mostly avoidable,

    good luck

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Yea, might be alright,

    But I do not trust any cop, and especially anyone that is of the mentality to do it on a for free basis.
    We were in Pattaya one night and down on the walking street with my friend and his wife who have lived in Pattaya for years, setting in a saloon and watching the foot traffic while drinking a pepsi and in front of this saloon was a cop van and a table set up and they had 2 of them big dumb bastards that were there to hassle drunks I guess as thats all we saw em do, flirt with any women and shove the men around and be a complete ass. My friend told me that the guy acts that way everynite. Seems like Steve Supan has got their numbers OK.
    Far as I am concerned, keep them wanna be assholes away from me, I will go to CM in a couple of weeks and do some moving around down by the Tha Pae Gate, eat a steak and buy some books and hope I don't see one of em.

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