Thai Police

There are two kinds of police available to farangs:

  • Tourist Police in the Sathorn-Silom and central Sukhumvit areas, tel. 1155 (free call from any phone) or 678-6800

  • regular police everywhere, emergency number 191 or 123 (free call from any phone)

The Thai police are usually quite trustworthy and reasonable, and often have adequate to good English skills, especially in Bangkok. However, there are some guidelines you should follow as regards the police:

  • If a conflict erupts, keep your composure. In Thai society, keeping your cool is very important. This includes with the police. Hotheads are considered dangerous to other people in addition to a danger to themself, and are dealt with by a decisive and swift display of force. Cool heads are dealt with reasonably and without force.

  • Conflicts are dealt with as amicably and reasonably as possible, and to minimize loss of face of either party of a conflict.

  • In some hot spots, there are corrupt police (see discussion below). If you have a problem with a powerful underworld person, then it will often not be dealt with completely, though you may get reasonable relief of your own problem as long as you don't want to cause additional problems. However, be careful. In some places, the Tourist Police may be the best recourse.

  • The security guard of a local establishment is often your first recourse.

  • The Thai police are civil servants who are poorly paid for performing the kind of job that's often thankless and sometimes dangerous. Many are overworked, especially the hot day traffic shifts. If you need their services, then be prepared to tip them very well. (Of course, not as a bribe for favoritism, as that can get you in immeasurable trouble, but to support them in performing their duty of righteous service.) Give them the respect they deserve for their professionalism and experience. These guys have seen it all...

  • Thai police generally do not get involved in personal disputes unless there is a threat of injury by one party or the other. The police are very hands off in interpersonal matters. If there are legal agreements as part of the conflict, then you should go to the police station or, better yet, your lawyer. If you call the police out, for example to extract your property from the apartment of an ex-lover, or in regard to a theft with realistic hopes of recovery, then be prepared to tip the police for success in getting any of your property back.

  • If you have an accident, do not flee the scene or else you may be presumed guilty. Some farangs advise that you should run because as a farang you'll be extorted of money. First hand accounts usually do not support that allegation. If you're guilty or it's hazy who's guilty, then you'll have to pay your fair share and should do so without resentment. But if you run, then if you're found you may be confined in jail or with a large bail until a court date, more or less like an ordinary Thai would be.

  • Foreigners who dress well and behave well are treated with high respect. The police of Thailand treat farangs graciously, just like other Thais, as long as farangs treat Thais the same. If you are respectful, then you will be respectable.

  • Don't believe everything you hear about the police. Put more emphasis on first hand accounts than hearsay, and consider the kind of person the source is.

The police usually walk with an air of authority, as they should, but you'll also note that the police are usually courteous, do not speak tough and will truly listen. Compared with the typical traffic cop in the U.S. and certain other western countries, the Thai police are quite reasonable. However, if you treat them with disrespect or aggression, then you will quickly find out just how strong an authority they can be, and you won't be improving your situation at all.

Though you know farangs better and may have rapport with a lot of farangs, do not assume that other farangs are more trustworthy than Thais, or believe the horror stories you may hear about corrupt police as if they're the norm rather than the exception (and many are exaggerated stories, one-sided). In fact, you may find that the farangs in Thailand may on average be more dangerous than the Thais around them in their locality, and more dangerous than the police. A high concentration of problems generally occur in and around the farang areas, by both criminal Thais attracted to farang money areas, and deadbeat farangs in Thailand who have no true gainful employment (who checks their cover stories?) and are instead predators on other, naive farangs. Scams abound far more in the farang parts of town.

In general, you will find the Thais in the nicer pure Thai areas to be quite trustworthy, as well as the police. Be careful what parts of town you circulate and do business in.

Some farangs say to not go to the Thai police. However, if trouble comes your way, then the Thai police or Tourist police are usually your best recourse. Who are you going to trust more, a questionable farang or the police? There may be a reason the farang doesn't want you to contact the police -- they don't want a problem (i.e., they want to scare you), or else their attitude towards the police may be due to resentment over having been prosecuted for being on the wrong side of the law, or else they may be too gullible to the general rumblings in the farang underworld. The police are more accountable as a civil servant with job responsibilities, than is the typical farang hanging out.

Of course, in some hot spots, there are corrupt policemen and you should be very careful. Criminals tend to exist ... and continue to exist ... in areas where they are tolerated, usually by bribes. In these places, the tourist police are often a better recourse than the regular police.

If you talk with farangs who are the kind to generally stay out of trouble, you will find that their experiences with the regular police have been pleasant and fair in the vast majority of situations. Put more weight on the word of people who have direct experiences, not hearsay.

Unlike in many western communities, the Thai police tend to be well connected on what's going on in their communities, and have ways of finding out new information. Sometimes, it may take time to resolve a problem, but it will usually be resolved in relative fairness and with a lot of information in the hands of the police.

If you're going to be in Thailand for a long time, then you should take some opportunities to get to know people in higher places as you see fit. Become a known entity with many references.

Of course, you should also not make trouble for yourself and become known in that way...


General contact information for the Tourist Police:

Head office:

TPI Tower
25/26 Liab Khong Rd., Chong Nonsi Junction
New Chan Rd.
Thung Mahamek
Sathorn
Tel: 678-6800

Major branch, near the Tourism Authority of Thailand office:

4 Rajdamnon Rd.
near Rajdamnon Boxing Stadium
Tel: 1155

About the Thai Police

The Thai police have low official salaries, typically 6000 baht ($125) per MONTH, and the police stations are poorly paid by the government. Imagine raising a family on that!

In Bangkok, they get most of their support from their community, which means monthly fees from the gold shops they protect, traffic violations and other behavioral fines paid on the spot (without a citation written out), an unofficial commission from brothels, bribes from entertainment places so they can stay open later than the law permits, and things like that.

The sum total of all that varies by police district. Some of the "Grade A" station assignees are priviledged with substantial sums of income, whereas many provincial policemen are more laid back in their expectations.

Individual officers on the beat are expected to pass a big chunk of the money they collect up the chain to help support the police station and the desk job people.

You would be surprised what is illegal in Thailand. One glaring example is prostitution (which can be argued to be a victimless crime in its mainstream practice). Practically every massage parlour and go-go bar pays a reasonable monthly fee to the local police station, and that's usually all there is to it. However, if they get out of control, then they can be shut down by application of the law.

For example, massage parlours and go-go bars are permitted only in certain areas, like an informal zoning. Likewise, prostitutes overtly plying their trade out in the open public are subject to arrest and removal.

By keeping "grey" things technically illegal, they are controlled at the discretion of the local police station.

It is amazing to many foreigners that in general the police do not abuse their authority here. Like everywhere else, there are always some bad cops on the job in Thailand, and cases abound of conspiracies and dirty money. However, most Thai police are honorable and reasonable, and you should put things into proper perspective as regards "the rule, not the exceptions".

Usually, the police are professional, respectful and courteous. Much of this is due to the Thai way of settling disputes as peacefully and mutually honorably as possible. The police force are also well trained.

However, the minimum educational specification for applying to the police academy is completion of a high school education, and the requirements were even lower a while back (now older police). While many applicants have a Bachelor's Degree, it's not a requirement because of concern there won't be enough good non-commissioned personnel. There also needs to be better training of non-commissioned officers in conducting investigations and the English language.

Police housing consists of small apartments that are very basic.


See also the section on embassies of other countries.

Human Trafficking Links

To report human trafficking, especially of children, send e-mail to children@interpol.int

Trafficking in human beings means "All acts and attempted acts involved in the recruitment, transportation within or across borders, purchase, sale, transfer, receipt or harbouring of a person involving the use of deception, coercion (including the use or threat of force or the abuse of authority) or debt bondage for the purpose of placing or holding such person, whether for pay or not, in involuntary servitude (domestic, sexual or reproductive) in forced or bonded labour, or in slavery-like conditions, in a community other than the one in which such person lived at the time of the original deception, coercion, or debt bondage."

Interpol takes this seriously, as one of its top 4 most important crime programs. See Interpol's history and viewpoint at http://www.interpol.com/Public/ICPO/speeches/20011219.asp

See also: UNIFEM, UNDP, SeaWatch."Trafficking in Women and Children in the Mekong sub-Region Resource Kit." 1998. Available: http://www.unifem-eseasia.org/Resources/Traffick2.html

The U.S. government is helping out with a 30 million baht program in Thailand aimed at public education for prevention, protection of victims, and prosecution. The embassy website has a page at http://usa.or.th/services/docs/reports/humanfacts02.htm (last checked September 2002). The project ends in 2003.

Drug Trafficking Links

To report drug trafficking, send e-mail to drugs@interpol.int

Transnational Fugitive Links

To report transnational fugitives, send e-mail to fugitives@interpol.int

Interpol Link

For more information on Interpol, the international police coordinating organization with 179 member countries, see www.interpol.int or www.interpol.com

Other Links

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, www.NCMEC.org , is US based but has some international points of contact. I list this because some of the local Thai NGOs don't respond well to English messages or calls or faxes, but usually respond better when prodded from international organizations. This NCMEC organization is just so much better than anything local in Thailand ... but they have yet to get a cooperating Thai NGO or government entity listed. Note that in their Malaysia division, they have processed more than 16,000 cases.

Partial list of foreign prisoners in Thailand: help-a-prisoner website. This is just a volunteer website and relies on inputs from visitors for prisoner info, so that it's not nearly a complete list. It introduces the Bang Kwang prison, tells you how to get there, and the process of how you can go visit inmates. You can give them things like books and groceries. Most of the foreigners in there were sentenced for drugs related infractions. (Thanks to Phil Macdonald of The Nation.)

Thailand Guru page on illegal drugs and brain damage




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