As a visitor to Koh Samui, or any other part of Thailand there are two different police forces who will be able to help you should you need their assistance at anytime during your stay. The countries main police force is the Royal Thai Police but there is also the Tourist Police, who mainly operate in popular tourist destinations and are also on hand to provide assistance to visitors to Thailand.
The Tourist Police was setup about 30 years ago in order to provide Thailand’s tourists and foreign visitors with assistance and help in other matters relating to crime and law enforcement. You will predominantly see the Tourist Police in Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket and Koh Samui or in other locations that are popular with foreign visitors. The vast majority of the Tourist Police force is made up of expats who volunteer to join the force in order to help other foreign nationals during their stay in Thailand. The Thai Tourist police can be contacted by dialling 1155 from any phone.
Formed around 1933, Thailand’s Royal Police Force is responsible for both law enforcement and maintaining public order throughout the country. The police in Thailand can be contacted by dialling 191 or 123 from any telephone.
Many policemen from the Royal Thai Police Force are instantly recognisable due to their crisp police uniforms, shiny black boots and helmets. During rush hour it is also common to see the policemen directing traffic, which they mainly seem to do by blowing a whistle, very loudly and very frequently. It could be said that you will usually hear a Thai policeman, before you actually see him!
One of first things you will notice about the Thai police, which are probably different to the police in your native country, is that they do not always travel around in official police vehicles. Very often you will see policemen driving private motorbikes or cars when carrying out their regular police work. At first sight, this can make for an unusual display of official police vehicles that could include anything from Harley Davidson or Chopper motorcycles to the latest Honda or Mitsubishi pick-ups lining the car park outside the local police station. It is also likely that they will have paid for these vehicles out of their own pocket, all of which is probably different to how police operate in more developed countries.
Thai policemen certainly walk with an air of authority but the contrary to popular belief amongst many foreigners in Thailand they are actually very approachable and reasonable, providing you speak to them respectfully and politely at all times, making sure that you never become aggressive or raise your voice.
Many policemen, particularly in Bangkok and other tourist hotspots such as Koh Samui, Pattaya and Phuket will usually be able to speak English from a reasonable to good level.
The Royal Thai Police Force are expected to conduct themselves with integrity at all times, whilst maintaining public order and arresting criminals. Originally the policing methods that were used by the Thai police were based on the pre-war Japanese police force. However, in more recent times, they have undergone a significant amount of retraining adopting their methods from a more American philosophy and mentality.
There are certain negative opinions or misconceptions regarding the police force in Thailand but generally, providing you are not doing anything that you shouldn’t be, they can be very helpful in providing you with assistance. For example, if you are lost or need advice on how to get to somewhere then very often they will be more than willing to help.
However, if you do happen to break the law then you should be fully prepared to face consequences.
Many of the misconceptions regarding the Royal Thai Police have a lot to do with corruption. Now, to say that all of the police in Thailand are corrupt is clearly an inaccurate statement and many are just as trust worthy as any police man or woman in the west.
However, as recently as 2007, an internationally recognised independent body carried out an assessment of the potential levels of corruption that are present in the Royal Thai Police Force. Their findings uncovered that Thailand’s police force received a rating of 4 out 5, where 1 represents no corruption and 5 represents very corrupt.
With this in mind it is probably fair to say that levels of corruption within the Royal Thai Police are much higher than in more developed countries and this is largely down to the poor levels of pay that the Thai police receive. Much of the corruption that the Thai Police are involved in is generally low level regarding things like a payment of a fine for a driving offence or money that is paid to them from by many bars or massage parlours.
For example, if you get caught driving a motorcycle without wearing a helmet or driving a car without wearing your seatbelt you will probably be expected to pay a small ‘fine’ direct to the police officer there and then at time of the offence. The police officer might then hand over his notebook to you, where you are expected to put some money between some of the pages of the book and hand it back to policeman. This sort of thing is standard practice and don’t expect your fine to be taken back to the station, recorded and processed. The chances are it will go straight into the pocket of the officer in question.
Another example of corruption amongst the police in Thailand is when the owner of a go-go bar or massage parlour might pay a couple of local policemen to turn a blind eye to some of the things that go on regarding bar girls and customers at the bar.
Usually these types of things are seen as nothing more than policemen supplementing their low wages and making a little bit of extra cash. To say that this is normal in Thailand is wrong. However, this sort of thing is much more accepted than it would be in western countries and is fairly widespread.
Generally speaking Thai police tend not to get involved in personal or domestic disputes or arguments, unless there is a serious threat of injury by one of the parties involved, and operate a very ‘hands off’ policy with regards to interpersonal matters. If, for whatever reason the police are called to a domestic dispute then people involved can normally expect to pay a small fee to the policemen for them being called the location.
Arrested in Thailand
If you ever happen to be arrested on Koh Samui or anywhere else in Thailand for that matter, the first thing you should try to do is remain calm and not become aggressive, no matter how difficult this might be. The next thing you should do is contact the consular staff who works at your country’s embassy in Thailand. They will then take steps to inform your friends and family of the situation as soon as possible. You embassy will also be able to provide you with plenty of information regarding your legal rights and the legal system generally in Thailand.
The best number for foreign people to contact the police on is 1155, which is the direct number of the Thai Tourist Police. You can also call 191, which is the number for the regular police force.
Road Traffic Accidents
If you ever happen to be involved in a road traffic accident you should always stay at the scene of the accident and call your insurance company as soon as possible. The insurance company will then send a representative out to asses any damage and take down all the details of the accident. Generally speaking, providing you have more than the basic compulsory insurance cover, then the insurance company will be pretty swift in responding to your needs.
Whilst waiting for the insurance representative to arrive you should also take down the details of anyone else who might have been involved in the accident. If other vehicles were involved you should make a note of the registration number (although this will be written in Thai) and also take down the details of the driver such as their name, ID card number if they are a Thai national, drivers license number, full insurance and contact details.
Police on Koh Samui
Here are the contact details of Police stations and boxes throughout Koh Samui:
Chaweng Police Station
Address: Laem Din Market, Moo2, Bo Phut, Koh Samui
Tel: +66 (0)77 414 567
Nathon Police Station
Address: Thaweeratphakdee Road, 17/16 Moo 3, Nathon, Koh Samui
Tel: +66 (0)77 421 095, +66 (0)77 421 097
Bo Phut Police Box
Address: Moo2, Bo Phut, Koh Samui
Tel: +66 (0)77 425 071
Chaweng Police Box
Address: Moo 6, Bo Phut, Koh Samui
Tel: +66 (0)77 422 067
Lamai Police Box
Address: Moo 4, Island Ring Road, Maret, Koh Samui
Tel: +66 (0) 77 424 068
Mae Nam Police Box
Address: Island Ring Road, Moo 1, Mae Nam, Koh Samui
Tel: +66 (0)77 425 070
Address: 359 Moo 3, Angthong, Koh Samui
Tel: +66 (0)77 421 245
Taling Ngam Police Box
Address: Island Ring Road, Moo 1, Taling Ngam, Koh Samui
Tel: +66 (0)77 423 009
Address: Thaweeratphakdee Road, Moo 1, 304/8-9 Nathon, Tambon Angthong, Koh Samui
Tel: +66 (0) 77 421 281, Call Centre – 1155
As in all countries, the Koh Samui Fire Service is there to specifically aid and help with putting out fires, as well as assisting the other emergency services in dealing with any other accidents or disasters that may occur on the island.
The islands main fire station is located in Chaweng, next to the police station. The Koh Samui Fire Service can be contacted by calling 106 from any telephone.