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Phuket's tourist police foreign volunteers- What exactly do you guys do?

A question frequently posed to foreign volunteers helping the Tourist Police Division of the Royal Thai Police in Phuket.

  Phuket City

The volunteer team currently comprises 40 foreign volunteers from 20 countries. Their language capability covers all the European languages, including Russian, most of the Indian sub-continent languages and more recently Arabic. The group includes some Thai nationals, and many of the foreign volunteers have Thai language skills, varying from fluencey to 'nit noi'.

What do we do? Well, we handle many different scenarios involving tourists. Everyday brings something different, missing persons: assault, theft, help with completing police reports, accidents, people forgetting where they're staying, domestic disputes and of course the famous jet ski disputes. We have Tourist Assistant Centres at the Tourist Police Headquarters in Yarowat Road, Phuket Town; at Thaweewong (Beach) Road in Patong and the recently opened Centre at Chalong Circle. The HQ is open 24 hours, seven days a week while centres are open daily Monday to Saturday from 10:00am to 3:30pm. Out of centres' office hours, all it takes is a call to the 24-hour emergency response line 1155.

We also help when dealing with local authorities, including the regular police, assisting with 'negotiations'. We can assist with disputes for repair costs after a rented vehicle is damaged, or between tourists and retailers or accommodation owners or travel agents, although this type of case usually requires the intervention of an officer of the regular Thai Tourist Police. We're also sometimes the first responder providing first aid to injured people, and we help people to get in contact with their embassies or consular officials.

Perhaps our most visible activity is the evening patrols in Soi Bangla and adjacent streets in Patong. Our presence there offers reassurance to holiday-makers and we can often defuse situations that could have turned nasty.

Our members come from many different backgrounds but all are commited to community service. Some of us have retired in Phuket, whilst others are in business here. Our backgrounds and experience vary and cover a broad spectrum including some who have been police officers, bakers, commandos, or emergency responders in our home countries. We pay for our own uniforms and equipment and receive no recompense for expenses incurred in the line of duty. We wear white shirts as we believe this is less intimidating than dark shirts. We believe our contribution to the tourist industry is appreciated by the vast majority, but there are always the few who doubt our motives and activities. To them we say, "Why don’t you visit one of our Assistance Centres, see for yourselves what we do – and meet some of the team."

Our rigorous selection process includes stringent interviews and background checks, while regular mandatory training programmes are conducted to cover every situation the volunteers might be involved in.

We're often called out to assist the regular police on special occasions, including traffic control during royal visits. At the recent official opening of the Tourist Police HQ in Phuket Town some of our members took part in the flag display presentation and ceremony. Volunteers can also be found supporting charity events such as the Phuket Blues and Rock Festival and the tsunami fund raiser for Japan held at Da Vinci's. And most recently at Six Senses Phuket Raceweek in Rawai. We provide support and assistance at many of the Thai cultural celebrations, such as Loy Krathong, the Vegetarian festival and Songkran.

Many of us find satisfaction in being able to assist tourists in a foreign country with a different language and cultural background, mostly when they are in a time of need. Often it's a simple matter of being able to communicate with someone in a language you speak who understands, empathizes and can help you through what may be a difficult time. We also receive compliments and thanks from Thai nationals, having assisted them to resolve a problem. We never assume who is at fault and are aware that tourists do need policing. The official slogan of the Royal Thai Tourist Police is 'Your First Friend'. We try to live up to that by offering our services with a smile in even the most difficult cases.

We receive no official funding and constantly need to replace worn equipment, furniture etc, as well as basic office supplies. If any readers feel they would like to support us, by donating something (not cash) to our group, please contact us via our web site, which also carries information on how to join us. Currently we are engaged in a high media profile boost to alert people to dangers, pitfalls and how to avoid them. Prevention is better than a cure!

For more information Tel: 1155.

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