Interview with a Thai Policeman (Part 1)

This is just basically an interview with a Thai cop, it is no way a compilation of secret confessions or something like that. We have all read the worst about the cops….. but this time around, let’s hear it from the cops’ side.
The cop interviewed below has allowed me to post the interview on thai-blogs.com. He does though, need to stay anonymous.

Please explain your background as a police officer.

I’ve been a police officer for around 13 years and currently hold the rank of Sargeant Major. When I first entered the police force I only had a high school education (Grade 12). It wasn’t easy at all to become a policeman, I had to take the exam many times before I finally succeeded in passing. When I did manage to pass it, there were only 500 positions available compared to more than 10,000 who took the exam.

So, in regards to educational qualifications, a high school certificate is enough to become a cop?

Yes, 13 years ago, but now – No. The regulations have changed over the past few years. Anyone who wishes to take the police force entrance examinations these days must have a degree.

Any old degree?

No, in most instances you must have a degree in law. In fact, for those officers like myself who didn’t originally go to university, most of us have now graduated in the field of law from an open university.

You earlier told me that you were attempting to pass your ‘Nai Roy’ examination, please explain again.

Yes, last year I twice took the examination for non-commissioned police officers to become commissioned officers (lieutenant +). It was really tough, for the first examination 23,000 non-commissioned officers took the exam, competing for only 300 places. As for the second, the figures were very similar. The examination was completely ‘multiple choice’ – 100 questions mostly about law. I didn’t pass last year’s exams but I’ll try again the next time one comes up.

As a police officer, can you decide whereabouts you work?

No, that depends on the big bosses in Bangkok. They could turn around any day and tell me that I am moved to say Narathiwat or Yala in the deep south. They are usually understanding enough though, especially when you have children at school etc… If a policeman wants to move provinces, say join his wife upcountry, he has to try and find an officer in that province who is willing to swap location. If no-one wants to swap locations he will have to wait and wait until an empty position arises. This can take years, especially if it is well sought after locations like Bangkok or Chiang Mai etc….
The only officers who have a choice on where they work are the new commissioned officers straight out of university who have just joined the forces.

Can you tell us about your current job as a police officer?

Sure, I am what you say ‘Patrol Police’, one of those guys you see driving around two on a motorbike all day, patrolling the area, arresting suspects and also attending to 191 calls. On occasions, as I am a trained commando, in the event of a hostage crisis or something like that, I also get called in.

What kind of crime do you have to deal with most?

First up, has to be drugs. I probably spend half my time patrolling around just stalking down drug-addicts in possession of Ya Ba (methamphetamine pills). Second most common are thieves and especially those whose speciality is motorbikes. I also have to waste a lot of time dealing with drunks, angry wives and family fights that are disrupting their nieghbourhoods. And of course, the police are always called into solve matters which have nothing to do with them. This is one reason it is essential for a police officer like to me to have a degree in law; we get called into incidents which are either borderline arrests or a case for police intervention, so we have to make sure we know our stuff before bringing the matter to the station lieutenant.

How dangerous is your job?

Extremely.

Please explain in more detail giving an example or two.

Well, it is the patrol police like myself who has to enter places like slums, search or/and arrest drug-addicts and drug dealers etc…. Many of these criminals are often in possession of a weapon of some kind like a knife, baton or even a gun. Often, I have to call in assistance to arrest a drug-addict in possession, who is on a high crazed out brandishing a weapon. For search and arrest of drug-dealers the most dangerous times of all are when we have to pull-over vehicles, many of which aren’t just random but the result of investigation or a tip-off. A lot of these dealers shifting drugs in their vehicles are also carrying guns, either on their bodies or under their car seats etc… Some even think they are real smart and have their girlfriends carry the weapon under their blouse even skirt. Many have been known to fire at the police in the event of been ‘pulled over’. Until now, I have been personally lucky but a very close colleague/friend of mine was killed like this a couple of years ago.

I’d like to ask more about criminals carrying drugs and what happens if they are female or ladyboys.

If we suspect a girl has drugs on her we can give her a very brief search but if we don’t find anything we can take her down to the police station and have a female officer do a search. Often the girls carry the pills in intimate places. If it’s a ladyboy, and she has a pair of breasts say, we still have the right to check between them for drugs, she is still a man according to the law. But their rights in regards to the law are taking a turn in their defense.

Many foreigners want to know this one in regards to policemen’s guns, bikes, uniforms etc… – What is Free and What is not?

The motorbike is free (patrol police = 2 cops/1 bike) but at the end of our shift we have to return the bike to the station. Only if we have special permission from our bosses can we take the thing home. As for petrol, we get 1,200baht in allowance each month (for one bike) but this is no way enough, on average we spend around 100 baht a day on gas. When we become a cop we get a gun for free, but because it is usually old and scrappy, if we have the money, we buy our own. If we lose it (same goes for the bike, walkie-talkie etc…) we have to pay for it and the police force charges us cops the full-price for anything lost. Take this battered police walkie-talkie which is probably worth just 3-4,000 baht (he shows me) if I lose it, I have to pay around 18,000 for it!
The police do have to pay for their own bullets (1 = 38baht) but in the case of special gun training we are given them for free. As for uniforms and boots etc…. we have to pay for all that out of our own pockets. One uniform costs around 1,800baht and a pair of boots is 1,500.

I’m sure a lotta people would like to know how much salary does a typical police officer like yourself earn.

My present salary is approx. 12,000baht, then I get 3,000 danger money and 1,000 rank bonus – so my monthly salary is basic 16,000. Then, if I or my colleagues make a big important arrest or meet or targets etc…. we receive financial awards to share out between us.

When you first became a policeman what was your salary?

Mmmm…in those days it was just 5,100baht for a new cop, these days it is now 7,200.

How is rank related to amount of salary and how does promotion work?

For non-commissioned officers like myself they aren’t very related, salary is based on work performance. The usual time period for promotion from one rank to another is three years but again your salary will only go up a lot if your work has been good.

Update: Click here for part two.

17 responses to “Interview with a Thai Policeman (Part 1)

  1. From the man in brown himself! Nice! 😀 Big grin when I read ” I also have to waste a lot of time dealing with drunks, angry wives and family fights that are disrupting their nieghbourhoods. ” hee hee hee

  2. *I also have to waste a lot of time dealing with drunks, angry wives and family fights that are disrupting their neighbourhood.*

    This reminds me of the cop show on television where they enact humorous real-life experiences.

    Wonderful blog, Steve!

  3. Compelling and fascinating reading, Steve, the part about where a cop works could have been lifted word for word from the UK Civil Service conditions.
    I will never look at a Thai cop in the same way again!

  4. “Often the girls carry the pills in intimate places. If it’s a ladyboy, and she has a pair of breasts say, we still have the right to check between them for drugs”

    Watch out too for any ladyboy and her gun, could be concealed behind her jean zip!

    Excellent piece Steve, look forward to Part 2…. can you tell me when it’s going to be blogged?

  5. omg!!! they have to pay for their own bullets. i really respect policemen because they really do put their life on the line. this was a GREAT interview! thanks.

  6. Cant believe my son wants to join the force 🙁

  7. Steve, very interesting and enlightening article! You’re actually doing investigative journalism unlike that dross of a paper you publish your column in.

    In any case, it shows that Thai Police and the system isn’t completely rotten. If we manage to audit the police properly, pay them more, and equip them better (both in terms of criminal justice and weaponry), and promote talent officers, we’d be all set.

    Your interview has shown me that at least there is some hope and that the force seems to have many capable police officers.

  8. I agree with dotdotdot. The “system isn’t completely rotten” but people tend to remember only the negative side of things.

  9. Very explicit interview! I got more the truth out from you blogs more than other Thai garbage cheapy news!
    I have had told all my friends to visit your blogs.

  10. Yeah, a great read Steve, some really interesting insights. I’d never have guessed they now needed a degree or have to pay for their own bullets (good disincentive to use their guns).

  11. very interesting read, man you come up with the best stories, thanks for that

    i rarely read an entire article of anything, but you choose the most interesting ones

    thanks!

  12. Great interview!
    This one verifies what I had heard.

  13. Thanks everyone for their kind comments. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Part 2, will be posted this weekend.

  14. That was a really interesting interview. I look forward to reading part two.