The Phuket Foreign Tourist Police Volunteers (TPVs)
There was a recent submission from Restless in Rawaii about the Foreign Tourist Police Assistants. Most of his comments concerned the volunteers in Pattaya, and the general tone of his article was highly critical of them!
that abounds on forums and web-boards.
Phuket may not be the same as for volunteers in Pattaya.
this confusion means that criticism is directed at the wrong team of volunteers!
visa problems. They also have a team who are stationed at the beach-end of Bangla Road, Patong, just by the police office.
upon to help.
evening from 9pm until midnight.
Our Uniform – Casual, Smart and not Military
polo shirt, dark blue trousers and black shoes. We are not military personnel and do not wish to portray that impression. Trousers are not allowed to be gathered at the ankle (military-style) and if boots are worn then the trousers must hang outside
the boots and not tucked inside. <The Pattaya chapter really could take a leaf out of your book in this regard – Stick>
see your eyes.
normal course of patrol duties.
The Batman Belt
might be needed.
use as a last resort of defence, such as when dealing with someone who is physically attacking the officer. The effects of pepper spray are very uncomfortable but temporary.
example, when I worked in Bangla last night, a tourist complained about an aggressive ladyboy. A photo was discretely taken of this ladyboy and circulated to other police officers – both Thai and foreign. The ladyboy was carefully watched throughout
the evening and subsequently detained when he (she?) was seen to threaten a tourist.
but will not snap if they are incorrectly used by the police officer, resulting in a very painful blow to the wrist of the person being detained).
a last resort option.
for using these types of equipments. The radio can be used to rapidly communicate with other volunteers, such as to summons medical assistance or to provide alerts about the location of pickpockets. The covert earpiece is absolutely essential due
to the very high noise level within the bar areas! It's impossible to communicate with each other when music is blaring out at 130 decibels.
Oxygen indicator, as well as several items to provide/clear airways for victims of vehicle accidents.
by an aggressor. The Phuket TPVs carry a telescopic nightstick and all volunteers are trained in the use of this piece of equipment.
to carry this item when on duty. However, I am pressing my superiors to authorise our volunteers to carry their nightstick in an inside pocket, easily-accessible but not visible during normal duties.
True – The action of arrest is a formal procedure that can only be performed by a Thai police officer.
The Phuket Foreign TPVs have no power to detain or restrain a foreigner
False – A foreigner can be detained if they are clearly breaking Thai law, such as pickpocketing, dealing/using illegal drugs or non-payment of bar-bill, or if they are acting in an unacceptable manner, such as fighting. Detained persons will be handed over to Thai police officers at the earliest opportunity. If the person is unwilling to accompany the foreign TPV, then the minimum of necessary force can be used by the volunteer, such as arm restraint or handcuffs.
The Phuket Foreign TPVs have no training.
No background checks are made on new applicants
False – Extensive background checks are made by the Royal Thai Police.
New recruits can work from day 1 without any probationary period
False – New recruits perform an initial duty in Bangla Road in plain clothes and under the eye of an experienced volunteer. If they pass this check, then they are allowed to patrol
in uniform, but only under the direct supervision of an experienced officer and they must attend the relevant training sessions. The new recruit must then work for a further three months before they are issued with their police ID card. That card
will only be issued subject to a satisfactory background check and performance when on duty.
In practice, a number of aspiring Phuket TPVs fail to attain the performance grade, primarily due to:
The Phuket Foreign TPVs need a Work Permit to perform their duties
True – Strictly speaking, according to Thai Labour Law, all volunteer work requires a Work Permit. This includes those performing volunteer duties with the Thai police. In practice, no Work Permits
have been issued to TPVs because the relevant police commander has publically stated that foreign police volunteers do not need Work Permits. However, to ensure peace of mind, the Phuket Foreign TPVs are actively seeking to obtain Work Permits for
The Phuket Foreign TPVs have a special visa for their work.
True and False! – No special visa is required to perform volunteer work in Thailand. Most of our volunteers have visa extensions based upon marriage to a Thai national, managing a
business or retirement (over 50 years of age). But for several volunteers who fall outside of these categories (including myself), there is the possibility to obtain a visa extension based on our provision of volunteer work. We are actively seeking
to obtain this visa extension. It's important to note that only those volunteers who have been with the TPVs for at least 3 months may apply for this visa, and it will only be issued for a period of 90 days, with further 90-day extensions available
if (and only if), the applicant continues to work as a police volunteer and if their work is to an acceptable standard).
The Phuket Foreign TPVs have a 'Get Out of Jail Free' card!
False – All volunteers are subject to the same laws as for any other foreigner in Thailand. Break the rules and you will be in trouble! In fact, this is even more the case
for a volunteer because they are considered to be representing HM The King when performing their duties. A breach of Thai law could result in a harsher sentence than for someone who is not a TPV.
The Phuket Foreign TPVs get free beer and sex from the Bangla bars
False! – Volunteers are not allowed to accept any free drinks, food or other gratuity, except for water, coffee and soft-drinks. Even when a free drink is provided, the volunteer
must offer to pay.
You will often see our volunteers at The Pizza Co. restaurant on Bangla Road. This is our 'home-base' when on duty and the restaurant provides us with free soft drinks when we are on our breaks. Despite offering each time, I have never managed
to persuade the restaurant manager to accept payment for these drinks!
Beer bars also provide us with free cold towels, which are very welcome when it's a hot night in Bangla. As for the free sex, I'm still waiting for the offer….
The Phuket Foreign TPVs drink alcohol on duty
False – It's strictly forbidden to drink alcohol whilst on duty or in uniform. Volunteers who are off-duty but still in uniform must remove their caps and cover their police shirts if they
wish to drink alcohol. Police ID cards and Batman Belt must be removed. So I often have a beer after finishing my Bangla duties, but I have to wear a full-length sleeved jacket. (The reason for this 'cover-up' rule is that a tourist will
not know whether a police volunteer is on duty or not).
Note that off-duty volunteers cannot intervene in any dispute where they may need access to their Batman Belt. So if a fight breaks out in the beer bar then I cannot intervene. I must summons a uniformed volunteer or Thai police officer.
Foreign TPVs are allowed to smoke on duty during their rest periods only. The police baseball cap must be removed.
The Phuket Foreign TPVs speak little or no Thai.
False – I just took a quick look at the list of Phuket TPVs and their language skills. Of the 22 active volunteers, 14 speak Thai to intermediate or fluent levels. Those who
do not speak Thai follow a training program to improve their language skills.
Many of our volunteers have lived in Phuket for several years, some for several decades. Our team includes Europeans, Canadians and Asians. Several of us (myself included), can also read and write Thai. In total, our volunteers can speak 25 languages,
and every volunteer carries a list of team contact telephone numbers, should they encounter a situation where they need a translator.
The Phuket Foreign TPVs are a 'Dad's Army', consisting of elderly pensioners
False – Our volunteers encompass the 25 to 65 age group. Whilst active patrol duty does require a minimum level of fitness, age is not a limitation for those who want to volunteer.
Our more 'mature' volunteers work in the Tourist Police offices on Beach Road, Patong and in the Bypass road office.
The Phuket Foreign TPVs do this work because the Thai police are too lazy to do it themselves.
Mostly False – In many situations involving foreign tourists or expats, there is a need to understand and speak English, or other languages. The Tourist Police recognise
that many (most?) of their officers do not speak sufficient English to ably assist. Furthermore, most Thai police officers do not have the experience or cultural awareness to deal with incidents involving 'long-nosed farang'. Hence the request
for longterm expats who can speak English (or other languages) to assist them with their duties.
Are the Thai police too lazy to do these duties themselves? I am sure that there is an element of truth in this claim when it's applied to specific Thai police officers. But as a whole, the Thai police (both Tourist Police and 'BiB') officers work closely and amicably with our foreign volunteers.
The Phuket Foreign TPVs are treated with disdain by Phuket expats
True and False (mostly False!) – As can be judged by the previous reader submission on this website, and by the many derogatory comments on
the popular web-forums, foreign TPVs (in general) are not highly regarded by expats!
I think there are a number of reasons for this attitude:
The Phuket Foreign TPVs are treated with disdain by Phuket tourists
False – I can honestly say that I have never heard this accusation from any tourist in Phuket. Whilst working in Bangla Road, many tourists are curious and approach
us with questions. The attitude from tourists (both those that we have helped and the simply curious) is extremely grateful, especially when they understand that we receive no payment or special favours for our volunteer work.
The Phuket Foreign TPVs are treated with disdain by Thais
False – It is a common accusation on the web forums that the businesses and staff in the Bangla area laugh at the antics of the Foreign TPVs. Nothing could be further from the truth! Many bars appreciate our soft-but-firm approach when dealing with difficult customers. Sometimes they may find it difficult to enlist the help of a Thai police officer who may be unwilling to come and resolve a minor incident. The bars know that we will always respond to every request for assistance.
Of course, there is always some good-natured banter from some Thais in the Bangla area. We do likewise! I certainly know that if I was attacked by several drunken Russians (or any other nationality), then I'm confident that I can absolutely count on getting assistance from Thais in Bangla Road.
So what else do you want to know about the Phuket Foreign Volunteers?
To close this submission, I hope my writings and photos give you a little insight into the work of the Phuket Foreign TPVs. We welcome comment, suggestions and fair criticism.
I'll let the readership form their own opinion…