The October ‘Tourist Rescue Exercise 2015’ (T-REx 2015) was our prompt to visit Tourist Police Station 7 (sub Division 2) in Hua Hin. From the displayed smiling logos and mission statements it was very clear how they aim to carry out their duties.
‘Your First Friend’ ‘We’re Ready To Serve’ ‘Travel like you dream, secure like your home’ ‘We Serve, You’re Safe, and ‘Smart, Smile, Serve, Safe, Secure’
This was a reassuring visit, hosted by the Inspector Police Major Phunlan Pathompornwiwat or Khun Jay as we came to know him. Kun Jay has been the handsome and youthful (30 yearold) leader of the Hua Hin Tourist Police since January this year. More importantly he is very eager to stress service to the tourist population is the primary aim of this agency. There are 20 serving officers under his command.
The Tourist Police Office has been strategically located for the last 10 years at the beach end of Damnern Kasem Road (Soi 61). This road starts at the railway station and crosses Phetkasem Road at the traffic lights before ending at the beach.
This means beach patrols can be carried out without difficulty, including the use of all terrain ‘beach buggies’, with vinegar on hand in case of a jelly fish encounter’.
Tourist Police consider it their duty to assist tourist in distress, including accident victims as a ‘welfare’ arm of the police in this situation with the assistance of expat volunteers and embassy connections if that is required. We’re aware that there is still some confusion about the emergency phone number to contact when there is an emergency with concerns about language issues. The message is call 1155 to connect with the call centre which will be able to respond to the situation arrange a local response. T-REx 2015 was a training exercise with the Tourist Police gearing up for more dramatic incidents than their usual working days. The Bangkok Post reported on this exercise which centred on responses to a distress call from a charter flight carrying three Russian businessmen which attempted which attempted to make an emergency landing at a local airport, according to this accident drill.
A plane from Suvarnabhumi airport had supposedly fallen short of the runway and dipped into the sea between Cha- Am district and Hua Hin. A search party was launched to locate the plane and help the victims while a war room was set up to direct the search and rescue operation. The tourist police office teamed up with other key police units, such as the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), the Marine Police Division (MPD) and the Highway Police (HP).
The Tourist Police took the leading role for search and rescue, as the agency with all the basic information on tourists and the areas the plane might have crashed. They first asked the marine police patrolling the beaches to help pinpoint the crash site, using aerial surveillance by a helicopter sent from the police paratroop division and a rescue helicopter from the National Police Office. At the same time, rubber dinghies were deployed into the ocean to maneuver within the search area should passengers be sighted. The helicopter was used to airlift crash survivors from the sea and transport them to a nearby hospital. Tourist Police are generally preoccupied with preventing and responding to crimes related to tourism, said Pol Lt.
Gen Thitirach Nongharnpithak, chief of the CIB, in his capacity as the head of the tourist rescue exercise program. But now they have been trained beyond their core duties to deal with natural disasters, risks and hazards or major criminal threats. Their training has prepared them to launch a large-scale intervention if necessary, he said. “We need to thwart any threats or risks to tourists” said Pol Lt Gen Thitirach. “Natural disasters are out of anyone’s control, whether they are tsunamis, mudslides, wild fires or floods. That is why we have to be prepared to deal with them,” said Lt Gen Thitirach.
From now on, tourist police will continue to sharpen their knowledge about how to respond to natural disasters. The Tourist Police have to be trained in standard practices to rescue tourists from all possible scenarios. “It is equally important for the tourist police to learn to work more efficiently with other police units, including the border patrol police, to ensure any rescue is accurate and timely,” added Lt Gen Thitirach. Pol Maj Gen Suphaphol Arunsit, the TPD commander, said that search and rescue operations is a new duty required of tourist police, and it is not to be considered a burden.
The tourist police will also be trained for different geographic rescues, such as how to respond to accident occurring in mountainous areas. Education and information for tourists in how best to enjoy their time in Thailand is also part of the Tourist Police portfolio. Though Khun Jay commented that the local tourist population is much more sensitive to behaving in an appropriate manner when compared with Pattaya visitors! The final message to tourists in Hua Hin is about personal security. “Hua Hin is a safe city however there is still a need to be mindful of the need to think about how to stay safe and to avoid putting either your own safety or the security of your possessions at risk”.
Our thanks to Inspector Police Major Phunlan Pathompornwiwat for his engaging manner and ready smile. Some Do’s and Don’ts published by the Tourist Police