Tourist police will merge volunteers

Pattaya’s Foreign Tourist Police Assistants (FTPA), a Pattaya-based volunteer group of 50 resident farang from 10 countries, will amalgamate with the larger Tourist Police Volunteers (TPV) under a reorganization plan announced by the local tourist police superintendent, police lieutenant colonel Aroon Promphan.

Samran Laepong

Until now, both groups have operated separately in assisting the regular tourist police carry out their duties, mostly in the Walking Street area. The responsibilities include assisting international visitors, acting as translators and attending to public order problems as and when necessary. Other duties include motorbike patrols throughout the city and helping tourists who visit the tourist police area headquarters on Buddha Hill or use the tourist police helpline.

The merger of the two groups has been sparked by the resignation of Wayne Walton, a British-born ex policeman and security specialist, after two years as FTPA leader. He gave no specific reason but said he felt others could take over the extremely time-consuming role. Superintendent Aroon then decided on a new structure to unify both organizations under the common leadership of Samran Laepong. A Thai national who spent many years in UK and now works for a leading Pattaya-based security firm, Samran said that there would be a common uniform and management structure for the combined force in due course.

It is not yet clear how the new structure will work out. Insiders say that the FTPA has had its fair share of internal difficulties and rivalries coupled with extremely detailed rules and regulations which, some claim, had handicapped initiative and were sometimes unworkable. Barry Kenyon, the FTPA press officer, said “We are now awaiting a meeting with senior tourist police in early August when the proposed structure should become clearer. There is general agreement it is time for a merger.”

Meanwhile, other Pattaya police groups who use foreign volunteers are already operating on Walking Street. They include the Foreign Police Volunteers (FPV), based at city police headquarters on Soi 9, a mobile response unit Thappraya 2310 run from City Hall and the police traffic division. One of the problems to be addressed is that there is very little coordination among the various organizations. Moreover, some groups expect their members to pay for their uniforms and equipment while others provide items for free.

Other organizations using foreign volunteers include local hospitals requiring translators, the Sawangboriboon rescue foundation and even some law companies. Foreigners working without reward in a quasi-official capacity on behalf of the local authorities are not currently required to have work permits. Recruitment rests very largely in the hands of the individual organizations. It is understood that a common system to vet and to register all foreigners assisting the police, and maybe other agencies too, is under active review in senior police circles.

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