I’ve lived in Thailand for seven years and never had a problem with a Thai nor been the victim of any kind of crime. Thailand is a very safe country and, for many people, is likely to be safer than their own countries, including the US and the UK. Crime, of course, does happen and visitors to Thailand are occasionally victims of crime. If you become a victim of a crime while in Thailand, whether large or small, what should you do, who should you call, and how do you contact the Thai police?
Remain Calm – The most important thing you should do in Thailand, if you are the victim of a crime, is to remain calm. Thais value politeness and respect and, if you lose your temper and start screaming and shouting you have immediately ‘lost face’. At this point, you are also less likely to be helped. Remain calm and ask a Thai to call the police or call them yourself on your mobile phone. In Thailand, you have two choice of police agencies to call. Either the Royal Thai Police (the regular police force) or the Royal Thai Tourist Police, an agency set up specifically to deal with problems tourists may have. For the Royal Thai Police you can call 191, which is a free call from any phone or for the Royal Thai Tourist Police call 1155 also free from any phone, or 678-6800.
Calling the Police – It’s often better to start off by calling the Tourist Police. Set up to deal with problems foreigners may have, the Tourist Police often speak more English than the average Thai police officer. There are also western volunteers who live in Thailand and volunteer with the Thai Tourist Police to help translate if there is a problem with communication. If the Tourist Police cannot help you, which is highly unlikely, then call the regular Police Force and request they come to the scene.
What Can You Call About – Unlike in the west, the Thai police do not come out for loud noise from one of your neighbors, or a domestic disturbance. These are things that are usually taken care of in the community, without needing help from the police.
You can, and should, call if you are the victim of a mugging, are in a fight, are a victim of assault or rape, a drive-by bag snatching, pickpocketing or if you witness a crime in progress. Just like in any other country, the Thai police are called to real crime situations and arrive promptly.
If you are in a traffic accident, you should also call the police. You may find, if the person who you hit or hits you does not have car insurance, they flee the scene. Never do this. The person who flees the scene is automatically looked at suspiciously and there is a high likelihood they will find you. You will then be arrested and put in jail until your court date. Not a pleasant situation to be in. Remain at the scene and wait for the police. If you are polite and respectful, they will listen and help. Some westerners will tell you the police always side with the Thai person involved. Not true. They support the person who was in the right and deal with the person who was in the wrong, regardless of nationality.
What to Expect From the Thai Police – As a westerner, you are likely to be very surprised at the actions of the Thai police. They are well-trained, very polite and courteous (much more so than many western police I’ve had the misfortune to encounter), and are likely to listen and try to help you. You may find you have to repeat yourself or try to explain in a simpler manner, due to language difficulties, but you will usually find if you’re in a well-trafficked area other Thais who speak English will jump in and help too. Most Thai police are honorable members of their profession and do not abuse their authority or power and, as you are a foreigner, they are even more likely to help you as any Thai hates their country to be looked at in a negative light.
Tipping Thai Police – Although it’s not official, both Thais and westerners tip Thai police if they have been helpful. You have to understand a typical Thai policeman makes between 6,000-8,000 baht a month ($180-$240) a month. Even in a country as cheap as Thailand, it is extremely difficult to live on that and just about impossible to bring up a family on it. That’s one of the reasons why people tip the Thai police for helping. Each police officer will keep some of the money, and some will be passed onto the police station they’re stationed at to supplement the income of other police staff (like desk staff) as well as pay for police expenses the government does not pay for.
Overall, if you are the victim of a crime in Thailand, try not to worry. The Thai police will help you to the best of their ability and will treat you with respect. And, as many westerners here will tell you, you are much more likely to have problems with another westerner in Thailand than you are with a Thai so, if you suspect anything out of the ordinary if you meet a westerner, walk away and, if that is not easily possible, call the Thai police. They will help you.