TAKING CARE OF THE HIGHWAYS – POLICE AND RESCUE

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NEED ASSISTANCE? Call the emergency call centre (Police, Fire or Rescue) – 1193

The main Highways in the Hua Hin and Cha-Am Region carry a significant amount of traffic and with that comes a responsibility to control, ensure safe transit but also to take care of any misfortunes that may occur. Apart from the general policing duties of the Royal Thai Police, Thailand has two special additional resources to achieve these aims.

Visitors or even long term residents are sometimes confused about how this is managed and the roles of the HIGHWAY POLICE and the HIGHWAY POLICE RESCUE. It’s easy to understand why many are confused as the names are very similar but the organisations are very different.

Most importantly – The ‘Highway Police Rescue’ are not actually Police!

HIGHWAY POLICE RESCUE
(NOT the Police!)
The name Highway Police Rescue (HPR) is very confusing and may be misleading to many. Perhaps it was just a bad translation from the Thai name that has stuck or perhaps the word ‘Police’ does not have the same connotation in Thai compared to English. However be assured that this organisation is made up of voluntary personnel who have neither the authority nor powers of Police Officers.

We understand that the initiative for the organisation being formed came from the Highway Police originally in recognition of their organisational limitations. The primary aim is to rescue travellers in distress, perhaps the ‘Good Samaritans’ of Thailand. They may be considered as an auxiliary of the Police and other statutory services with a clear mandate to help anyone when needed.

Characteristically you are likely to see the HPR dressed in bright orange overalls attending to accident victims or taking care of broken down (have you ever run out of fuel?) or damaged vehicles. However they are also involved in other rescue ‘missions’, responding to any situation where there are people in distress. They may also be in attendance at a variety of community events ‘just in case’. You may see a variety of different vehicles of all shapes and sizes with the distinctive HPR logo displayed and equipped with emergency flashing lights. As a voluntary service the uniforms, vehicles and, for that matter, all the equipment used is self-funded.

Hua Hin & Cha-Am Today attended the office of the Cha-Am Branch of the HPR to talk to the local workers and to gain some insights on how they operate. These volunteers usually have their ‘day jobs’ in this case they were builders, security staff and cooks. The very basic ‘office’, alongside the Highway Police base, is a few kilometres north of town. It was built by the volunteers and contains radio equipment and a bed for those who may be on duty during the early hours of the morning. This is a 24/7 operation with those not on duty always on call should an emergency arise.

One of the frequent necessities of rescue is to provide transport to medical care at a hospital. The HPR is aware of some ‘bad press’ they have received in the past about this role. The suggestion (right or wrong) was that ‘commissions’ may have been available if private health care facilities were favoured over public hospitals, particularly an issue when the patient did not have health insurance coverage. Some 3 or 4 years ago a policy was but in place to address this concern. The coordinator of the Cha-Am Region, Mr Somyot or Khun Gie, commented that all staff are instructed to take a patient requiring medical care to the nearest public hospital. If a patient is insistent on wanting to go to a private facility, approval must be obtained from the ‘office’ and recorded with the patient’s written consent.

The need to purchase equipment to effectively deliver this service is always an issue. Rescue services all over the world which attend to motor vehicle accidents almost inevitably use what is known as the ‘Jaws of Life’. This is an hydraulic rescue tool used to assist the vehicle extrication of crash victims, as well as other rescues from small spaces. These tools include cutters, spreaders, door busters and rams. Currently the Cha-Am HPR has no access to such a device and we are told this has resulted in the unnecessary death of several people this year alone. Costs for this essential equipment are in the vicinity of 200,000 THB.

Thinking About Sponsorship?
Corporate sponsorship is alive and well in the Hua Hin / Cha-Am Region with many charity fund raising events arranged raising millions of Baht for a variety of causes. In this case it’s more than giving a helping hand but in a very practical way saving lives! As we have previously suggested, image cane an issue. Of course when there are suggestions of ‘kick backs’ or any form of suspicion about motivation, sponsorship becomes hard to find.

n this case a combination of a somewhat confusing name and some previous bad press has not been helpful in securing sponsorship. But as the cause is not about needing cash but equipment, perhaps a corporate project to purchase and present the ‘Jaws of Life’ could be considered. Hua Hin & Cha-Am Today will certainly do all we can to publically acknowledge your support! Contact us to get all the information you need.

Footnote: Recently a motorbike rider travelling along Narathip Road collided with the rear end of a parked car. The speed of the motorbike was unknown but sufficient for the rider to fly through the air over the car roof and land on the road. He lay there unconscious being tended to with bystanders unable to render any real assistance. Within minutes (five?) the rescue volunteers arrived at the scene followed by police. Their professional approach was clearly on display with the rider strapped onto a stretcher with an immobilising neck brace and oxygen, then quickly away to hospital. I was really impressed with the rapid response and attention to the patient’s needs.
However …………I still have the indentation of that motor cycle in the rear of my car!
Royal Thai Police
THE HIGHWAY POLICE
We’re trying to unravel the mysteries of the many jurisdictions of the Police in Thailand. The Royal Thai Police come in many varieties each with a particular role and function. Our focus in this article is the Highway Police thanks to the hospitality of Police LT. Colonel Denlar Rattanakit, of the Highway Police Division Three, Prachuap Khiri Khan Province.

You may have seen Highway Police vehicles travelling on patrol along one of the Region’s main highways. These vehicles are recognisable with distinctive maroon and yellow colours compared with the maroon and white colours of the Provincial Police. The name Highway Police is accurate as their mandate is to take care of safety and the law when it comes to travel along the main traffic arteries anywhere in Thailand. Not just about policing the roads but ensuring that highways remain safe and uncongested.

Highway Police have the same legal powers and authority vested in any of the Royal Thai Police branches. Although not strictly with a law enforcement agenda, certainly able to arrest, detain, charge or react to any unlawful behaviour. Random checks are carried out sometimes resulting in the seizure of illegal drugs or other contraband. The question of legal driving licence requirements is also on the agenda. Luckily for some, foreign drivers are not as frequently questioned as Thai people, particularly if the officers in question can foresee communication problems in a foreign language!

The Highway Police has a separate command structure to Provincial Offices and is largely independent in its operations.

What Do They Do?
 A constant presence on the Highways with patrolling vehicles on the lookout for any sort of problems on the road.
 Enforcement of traffic regulations on main highways, including the use of speed detecting and alcohol/drug testing equipment.
 Providing an escort service for ‘convoys’ of multiple vehicles to facilitate safe and convenient transit. This may be for private tours (free!) when there are at least 6 vehicles travelling together. Additionally there may be government or Royal travellers needing this sort of escort to ensure safe and unimpeded passage.
 Rendering assistance for the drivers and passengers of broken down or damaged vehicles or cases of medical emergency.

In many Western countries on ‘freeways’ or other main transport ‘arteries’ services are provided so that everyone’s journey can be as uneventful as possible. In Thailand the Highway Police are there to provide these services on our main roads.

What About Our Region?
Hua Hin & Cha-Am today was invited to talk with Khun Denlar at the Hua Hin Office and centre for operations in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province. His area of responsibility is primarily the main Bangkok Highway south within the borders of the Province. This includes the section of the Hua Hin bypass Highway. This amounts to around 246 kilometres of road with 16 vehicles and probably half of these on the road at any time. There are 8 subdivisions and each has 4 or 5 smaller offices.

A special requirement for this Division relates to ‘Royal duties’ with a special task force to respond to particular requirements of Royal visitors. Because these duties have very special security requirements with other security providers on hand we understand that weapons, usually a part of any modern policing, are not being carried on these assignments.

Khun Denlar talked about the usual source of concern to all traffic policing such as alcohol and drug use, driver inattention through tiredness and of course speeding.

All our readers should know that 90 kilometres per hour is the maximum speed limit on all Thailand highways. Some discretion is allowed in enforcing this limit (we won’t tell you how much discretion) but there are speed cameras on the road!

Our host was eager to make one plea to travellers apart from the concerns mentioned above and that is:

………….. BE PREPARED FOR YOUR JOURNEY! …………..

In other words know that your vehicle is ready for the trip (maintenance and fuel), plan to be rested, not rushed and always thinking about safety!

 

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