Thailand has many national observances, that are regulated by government, but they are not always observed as actual holidays. One such observance is National Police Day (Wan Tamruat — วันตำรวจ), held annually on October 13 since 1915. National Police Day is celebrated in Thailand in various ways. Every city and police station of the Royal Thai Police organizes its own ceremonies and presentations, that mainly make an attempt to increase cooperation with the public. Celebrations are usually opened in the morning by a solemn speech in front of the local police station. The ceremony is attended by local authorities and religious leaders. The mayor’s and chief police officer’s speeches are followed by a memorial service, commemorating the officers who died in the line of duty. After the end of the official ceremony, police officers and public may enjoy various events including sports competitions and a writing contest. The latter is open to the public and willing persons may write an essay on one of the given themes, the best of which are awarded a prize.
The Royal Thai Police (ตำรวจแห่งชาติ) currently employs between 210,700 and 230,000 officers, roughly 17 percent of all civil servants (excluding military and the employees of state-owned enterprises). A police force first came into existence in 1455 but the modern system came into existence in 1861 during the reign of Mongkut (King Rama IV), designed by an Englishman named Captain Joseph Byrd Ames. Captain Ames was the Captain of an English vessel at the time but was given the responsibility for establishing the first uniform police unit in Thailand. Ames, himself, was appointed the first uniform police commander by King Rama IV.
At the outset, the Metropolitan Police Department was responsible for the preservation of peace in the inner section of Bangkok. The maintenance of law and order in the outlying provinces was loosely performed by forces of the Ministries of Defense and Interior. Occasionally, police punitive units were dispatched from Bangkok to supplement security in areas where large scale banditry or widespread crime was reported.
The force grew in strength between 1869 and 1897 and was renamed several times, split into various types of patrol squads and increased its areas of responsibility. The first Provincial Police force was formed in 1897 to quell banditry, rebellion and crime in the rural provinces in 1897. In 1915, the Provincial Police and the Patrol Department (Metropolitan Police) were merged into a single organization called the Gendarmerie and Patrol Department. The name underwent several changes until 1932 when it was renamed the Royal Thai Police Department.
Originally modeled on the pre-World War II national police force of Japan, the Thai police force was reorganized several times to meet changing public order and internal security needs. American advice, training, and equipment were provided from 1951 through the early 1970sn and did much to introduce new law enforcement concepts and practices and to aid in the modernization of the Royal Thai Police. During this era the strength and effectiveness of the police grew steadily.
All components of the police system were administered by police headquarters in Bangkok, which also provided technical support for law enforcement activities throughout the kingdom. The major operational units of the force were the Provincial Police, the Border Patrol Police, the Metropolitan Police, and smaller specialized units supervised by the Central Investigation Bureau. Quasi-military in character, the Royal Thai Police was headed by a director general, who held the rank of police general. He was assisted by three deputy directors general and five assistant directors general, all of whom held the rank of police lieutenant general. Throughout the system, all ranks except the lowest (constable) corresponded to those of the army. The proliferation of high ranks in the organizational structure, as in the military, indicated the political impact of the police on national life.
In 1998, the Royal Thai Police was transferred from the Ministry of Interior of Thailand to be directly under the Office of the Prime Minister. The title of its commander was changed from “Director-General” to “Commissioner-General”. Since it has to perform police functions throughout the entire country, the Royal Thai Police is a unitary agency whose power and influence in Thai national life has at times rivaled that of the Royal Thai Army.
There are no standard-issue pistols carried by the Royal Thai Police. Policemen must buy their own pistol and he/she must buy what’s available in Thailand and what he/she can afford. If the police officer can’t afford a pistol, he may purchase one by paying in installments through their police co-operative. One of the most popular police pistols is the M1911A1 .45 ACP pistol which can be found readily and relatively cheaply in Thailand. The 9mm Glock 19 Parabellum is another popular, albeit more expensive, choice.
In mid-2015, Police General Somyot Phumphanmuang, Royal Thai Police Commissioner, initiated a program to allow officers to purchase Swiss-made, 9mm SIG Sauer P320 pistols for 18,000 baht each. The Thai market price for this gun is several times higher. The affordable price is made possible by a special police exemption from import quotas and import duties. Although the Thai police does not issue pistols, long-guns are made available by the government. Common are the Heckler & Koch MP5 and FN P90 sub-machine guns, Remington 870 shotguns, the M4 carbine, and M16 rifles.
This article is illustrated with Scott #2266, issued on December 5, 2006 to commemorate the birthday of His Majesty King Bhumiphol Adulyadej (Rama IX) as well as the 60th anniversary of his ascension to the throne of Thailand. It was revealed over the weekend that His Majesty is extremely ill. The Royal Family has gathered at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok (the Crown Prince returning from Berlin last night), many government events have been canceled, and the entire Kingdom is praying that his condition will stabilize soon. Thai people revere the king and his birthday doubles as Father’s Day as they all consider him to be their father.* I, too, am waiting for word of the king’s health — the country seems to be holding a collective breath of anticipation.
*Recently, I taught a lesson on ordinal numbers and the writing of dates. An exercise in the students’ text books had a variety of questions such as “When were you born?”, “When is New Year’s Eve?”, etc. Every single student wrote “5th December” as the answer for “When is your father’s birthday?” When I tried to explain, “No, not the king — your actual father’s birthday,” I received blank stares. One student simply said, “The king is my father.”