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Phuket police volunteers with an iguanga seized in a Patong encounter

Expat Volunteers Asked to Pay Pepper Spray Bill

Sunday, November 3, 2013
PHUKET: Phuket expat volunteers were forced to use pepper spray in self-defence to subdue an iguana tout in Patong on Friday night.

The incident, in which two volunteers were involved, has touched off a debate about the rights of volunteer police working in and around Patong's most popular tourist area, Soi Bangla.

They face Patong's touts and some say they do not always get the support they should from Thai police. Some would like the power to arrest suspects.

The Patong violence follows a call by Phuket's tough-taking new Police Commander, Major General Ong-Art Phiwruangnont, who welcomed 97 new police recruits at the weekend and said he would also like ''100 more volunteers.''

The night of the iguana began about 9.30am when a tout brushed past a uniformed volunteer in Soi Crocodile, a laneway off Soi Bangla.

The tout had left his iguana on a chair and problems began when the volunteer officer went to take the iguana, witnesses said. Laws prohibit the use of iguanas and slow lorises by photo touts.

The tout intervened and used both hands to restrain and push away the volunteer, Phuketwan has been told.

With the first volunteer being assaulted by the tout, a second volunteer stepped in and grabbed the man from behind.

The tout turned and dumped the second volunteer to the ground, witnesses said.

After the first confrontation, another disputed erupted when the first police volunteer again moved to take the iguana.

With physical contact about to occur again and the tout moving towards the volunteer, the second volunteer officer pulled a pepper spray and used it to subdue the tout.

An officer from Kathu Police Station arrived and spoke to the tout and bystanders.

Soon after, the tout was taken to Patong Hospital for a ''drenching'' to clear his eyes of pepper spray.

At Patong's Kathu Police Station, a senior officer decided no action would be taken against the tout who initiated the physical confrontation.

Phuketwan has learned that the volunteers involved would like the tout arrested and have so far resisted suggestions that the volunteer who was forced to use the pepper spray should pay for the tout's hospital treatment.

The incident has not been officially recorded.

The expat volunteers are often at the forefront of tourist safety in Soi Bangla at night and say they would welcome greater assistance from their Thai colleagues in making more arrests.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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The response following the altercation speaks volumes. The volunteers have long been criticized for not taking action, and now we can see why they may not have done so in the past. My personal view is that now that there is a police commander willing to uphold the law, the volunteers have some motivation to intervene when witnessing such a blatant violation of both the local law and the undertakings Thailand has agreed to in respect to international conventions on wildlife protection. I note that the volunteers were intervening on behalf of an abused animal and were not taking direct action against a Thai national. The current response will not inculcate respect for local police officials and suggests that they haven't understood the new police commander's directive. Let's see if the police commander does anything. It would provide an opportunity to show that he means business when he says law and order will prevail and that he is going to tackle corruption.

Posted by Ruan on November 3, 2013 10:07

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What seems to have been forgotten here is that these volunteers are not police officers and actually have no policing powers - they are there to assist the real police. Why is a volunteer carrying pepper spray anyway and what sort of training has he had?

Posted by Mister Ree on November 3, 2013 10:50

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The volunteers overstepped their authority. They are there to assist tourists, not enforce laws. They shold have taken a photograph, and called the police. Giving them more authority is not the solution, instead give the real police what they need.

Posted by Christy S. on November 3, 2013 11:43

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Mister Ree, are you serious? Read the article. The volunteers directed their attention towards the loris and were then assaulted by the tout. They subsequently received zero support from Royal Thai Police.

I don't know whether it is commendable or foolhardy for people to act as police volunteers, but clearly this incident will do nothing to enhance recruiting. If I were a volunteer, I would most certainly carry pepper spray for self defence. Why? Because there are no other options and (in this case) no support from sworn police.

Posted by Ping on November 3, 2013 12:20

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I'm surprised the need for volunteers is neccessary. I'm sure the Thai police could trainup their own force adequately to deal with foreigners, and improve their language skills to an acceptable level.

Posted by reader on November 3, 2013 12:27

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Seems to me that expat volunteers are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

I don't think anyone can dispute that touting iguanas for photos is not allowed - the Thai police have made that quite clear.

When these expats attempted to confiscate this animal from a tout, they were attacked by the latter and forced to defend themselves.

That seems to me to be quite reasonable, and using pepper spray is far less dangerous than shooting or knifing your attacker.

Yet the Thai police did not charge the attacker and didn't record the incident.

What if that tout had attacked a Thai policeman? Would he have been charged? Would the offence be recorded?

It seems to be that either the expat volunteers are given the full support by the Thai police that they deserve for doing this oderous work for no pay (and no medical insurance cover for injury in the line of duty, unlike their Thai colleagues who receive free insurance), OR these expat volunteers are relegated to tourist information officers with maps, and let the Thai police deal with the problems of touts, drunks, pickpockets,tourists who are ill or injured etc.

Simon

Posted by Simon Luttrell on November 3, 2013 12:48

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"At Patong's Kathu Police Station, a senior officer decided no action would be taken against the tout who initiated the physical confrontation" speaks for it self.

The volunteers' job is to assist the Thai officers, who were not present when the incident happened.

Being forced to ignore obvious criminal activities, right in front of their noses, and no backup from Thai officers in emergency situations, make the volunteers look like fools.

This is one of the reasons that many volunteers left the force and also the reason for that they need to carry pepper spray for using in self defense.

Posted by Sherlock on November 3, 2013 12:50

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How utterly disheartening for the volunteers. To be assaulted by a thai thug who thinks he can get away with it because they're farangs,and then not get full support from the uniforms would signal my resignation if i were in their shoes.
I've long wondered why the volunteers didn't get more involved. Now i can see the reason why.
If these two don't get the Commander's full support, they should resign en masse and draw attention to the very obvious flouting of the law, on Bangla, and the equally obvious corruption involved in turning a blind eye to the practice of allowing loris and iguana touts on the street.

Posted by jimbo on November 3, 2013 12:50

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Full credit to the volunteer police, finally we see something positive. Now we wait and see if the police commander, Major General Ong-Art Phiwruangnont, puts his words into action and supports the volunteers AND asks his officer WHY the tout was not charged and WHY the event was not recorded. He also needs to ask WHY it was "suggested" that the volunteer pay for the touts hospital bill. I fear now that the volunteers will feel the wrath of their Thai colleagues , watch your backs guys. What these volunteers have done, is what the Thai police SHOULD be doing, but for reasons "unknown" (lol) they fail to do.

Posted by DSI Watcher on November 3, 2013 13:04

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@ping

Maybe you should read the article.
The animal involved was an Iguana, not a loris.
Seems you're having comprehension problems today.

Posted by sir burr on November 3, 2013 13:22

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The Thai man assaulted the farang. Under Thai law, any citizen can file assault charges, which the police must honor. Why was no action taken in this case?

Posted by Paoa on November 3, 2013 13:28

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I love that story as it show how the Police Force is looking down and taking care of their foreign volunteers in Tourist Police in Phuket and Thailand at large.
I remember, many years ago, when Chalong Police asked me several times to help them when they have communication problems between foreign tourists and Thais such as involving a road accident and motorcycle rental operators alike, to find out that I was helping under pressure the Thai side and police by persuading the tourists to pay double-amount of normal prices to repair the car/motorcycle in order to protect bribes to the policemen.
Today I refuse to be involve in any help for that reason as at the end, we know well that the tourists will have to be the losers in any dispute.

When we look those working as Tourist Police volunteers we have 3 categories:
1/- Those who want to impersonate an policeman.
2/- Those who want get easy visa to stay in Thailand.
3/- Those who own large businesses employing many foreigners such as in diving businesses and need protection or be informed well in advance in case of control.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on November 3, 2013 13:40

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The legal situation is clear, the volunteers have no authority to do anything but to call the police. Taking the Iguana, even if this animal is a protected species, is an illegal act on behalf of the volunteers! What ever happened is just the result of having amateurs without any police experience trying to do police work. A proper police officer would try to de-escalate the situation! Hope this will not backfire big time for them...

Posted by Ex-pet on November 3, 2013 15:13

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More importantly..... How is the iguana?

Posted by Geraint Lewis on November 3, 2013 15:21

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Maybe the volunteers should be called something other than tourist 'police'. They are not 'police' in any sense & are misused & abused while the real police hide or take no action.

They have a thoroughly thankless job with no reward. This particular story stinks if the real police take no action.

Posted by Logic on November 3, 2013 16:09

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Why not name the senior officer in Kathu Police Station? The reasonable act of course would be for all police volunteers would be to stop working as volunteers. The situation is clear. They tried to stop the animal misuse, were repeatedly attacked and answered with reasonable force to stop the attacks. But the unnamed senior police officer showed were his professional loyalty lays.

Time to quit for all police volunteers in Kathu.

Posted by Lena on November 3, 2013 16:28

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@sir burr, I think you "sir" are being a little pedantic, I think most readers realised ping's small error, but unlike you "sir" did not think it needed commenting on, can you at least say something about the story, and just grow up a little.

Posted by DSI Watcher on November 3, 2013 16:31

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Maybe I am the only one in the world that find slow lorises, iguanas, stray dogs and sweet puppies to be less important than street kids and other children that circumstances have brought in an unfavourable situation. Just wish they would get half the attention that dogs, iguanas and lorises get then they would be a lot better off today.

Posted by Sailor on November 3, 2013 16:39

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[quote]
we have 3 categories:
[/quote]

I think you missed a 4th category:

4 - Those who have no hidden agenda, and genuinely want to assist tourists and expats, and to uphold the laws of Thailand.

Simon

Posted by Simon Luttrell on November 3, 2013 18:13

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The volunteers are there for tourists , not to be police. They everstepped their authority

Posted by Bill W on November 3, 2013 18:50

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Nice discussions here but where is the Iguana?

Posted by nero on November 3, 2013 20:25

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I don't see why these volunteers are trying to uphold the law in a place where the very people in charge have no interest in the same. They don't even want the law upheld, they just want a free translator and some bodies to walk their beat so they can sit back and watch football.

Same goes for the kind farang gentlemen in the immigration office. They do a great job, but in the end they are just enabling the Thais to continue being lazy. With all the increases in visa fees it shouldn't be so hard to find some competent staff. Never will happen though, as long as nice, well-meaning farang keep stepping in to pick up the slack(for free I might add).

Stop being lackeys for people who don't even appreciate it.

Posted by BigP on November 3, 2013 22:51

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I have been coming to Patong 23 years. Everybody knows that the real m**** is the police themself. They protect these people mistreating animals, seks shows businesses and selling copy products. Why you think is that. Because Police is receiving large amounts of protection money from these people or even worse they own these businesses themselfs. Being a volunteer means helping the local police doing the things they are not interested in. These two volunteer guys did a great job, but the local police is not happy and now you understand why. As long as the local police force is not completely reorganised, all the corruption will stay in place and nothing will change.

Posted by TAK on November 4, 2013 01:07

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So, a focus is now on the use of a pepper spray, right?
The text of article says there was clear indication that the tout is going to attack a volunteer. So then it is a clear self-defence case. Issue of the use of pepper-spray should be evaluated whether it was excessive or not. I don't think it is possible to conclude that it was apparently excessive

Iguana, probably, is not on the endangered species list, and I am not sure whether it's use by photo touts constitute some general offence against animals, like cruel behavior toward it etc.

But in any case, I remember what Kathu police instructed us here viaPW: if someone attack you, you don't have a right to fight back, you have to call police - the photo tout obviously is in violation of these instructions.

Posted by Sue on November 4, 2013 02:17

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Seems to me the volunteers are willing to do what the police are not.

Posted by pozz59 on November 4, 2013 06:25

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seems like this newspaper is very biased on which posts it publishes seems like it is as corrupt as everything else in thailand i will no longer read the crap from here

Posted by mr wolf on November 4, 2013 12:54

Editor Comment:

Phuketwan's attitude to comments remains unchanged from the previous announcement:

PHUKETWAN hereby alters its policy on the posting of Comments and bans whingers, whiners, do-nothings, dingbats, doomsayers, carpers, harpers and kooks. This list may grow with time. Constructive ideas and new pieces of information remain welcome.

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There is naturally a lot of misunderstandings about Thai law. It will probably surprise most that any civilian in Thailand, whether Thai or foreign, has the right to effect an arrest on another they witness committing a crime (not including minor traffic infractions). That does not mean that doing so is always prudent, or in line with the departments mandate. But in the case of the volunteers, the discretion lies with the arresting volunteer.

Also, police volunteers may be working under the direction of a sworn police officer. This happens often. In this situation, the officers powers of arrest extend to the volunteer. This concept is refereed to as " posse comitatus".

I wasn't there so I cannot pass judgement about this incident, but the police superintendent has made it clear that he does not want the touts anymore. I personally would not take on these touts 2 on 1 knowing what we all know. That seems a bit risky to me. But I believe political will is slowly changing and their days are numbered.

Whether you agree with what the volunteers did, or in what they do in general, I think a thanks is in order to bringing this subject to the forefront again.

Posted by NomadJoe on November 4, 2013 21:01

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@Logic

Excellent suggestion changing the name from Tourist "Police" since it gives the wrong impression of these volunteers official capacity.

@Ex-Pet

Absolutely correct, a trained LEO would not have escalated this situation by attempting to take the man's iguana.

What did those volunteers think the touts response was going to be when he saw a couple of farangs taking his means of income?

Empathy is an asset.

Posted by C&C on November 8, 2013 17:02

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Part 2.

Pressed "submit" too soon.

I should have indicated that I really do support the efforts these volunteers make daily on behalf of all the tourists in need of assistance and in the absence of local police cooperation.

I do hope they don't have to pay the touts medical expenses.

Posted by C&C on November 8, 2013 17:06

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Hi guys, i've been in and out of thailand for more than a decade, i was thinking to relocate to phuket but after reading storys after storys month after month i was thinking is it worth it to stay in a place like that where farangs are nothing more than a walking wallet full of currency. Is it worth it to stay there with wife and kids. I'd like an honest answer. Thanks.

Posted by Stephane on November 10, 2013 12:17

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@Stephane

I was considering the very same move but have found there are far better destinations within thailand.

Read some of ThaiMikes posts...do you want to turn into someone so negative?

Cheers

Posted by C&C on November 10, 2013 19:31

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- C&C

Thank you for letting us know you don't even live on Phuket.

I thought you were just not very smart but it turns out you simply don't know what you are talking about.

Takes a man to admit being an armchair quarterback. For that you have my respect.

Posted by ThaiMike on November 11, 2013 07:05

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@C&C
Of course i want to be postive but most of the time fact prove me that my concern are real. Yes phuket is not Thailand, can you list few destination that could be worth it. Thanks.

Posted by Stephane on November 11, 2013 10:58

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The problem is that farang wolunteers work in a foreign country, where they have no authority whatsoever! What would you all say if a thai-tourist suddenly appeears in one of your european or US contries "assisting" the local police? Unbeliveable, wouldn't you say?

Posted by Wilai on November 18, 2013 20:11

Editor Comment:

The problem begins with the inability of Thai police to speak the languages that the tourists speak, Wilai, along with the Government's inability to provide enough police to meet Phuket's needs. These problems are not common in Europe or the US. Take away the volunteers and the police would struggle to cope. When the language skills have been improved and sufficient police are provided, the volunteers will no longer be necessary.

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The Editor wrote: "The problem begins with the inability of Thai police to speak the languages that the tourists speak, Wilai, along with the Government's inability to provide enough police to meet Phuket's needs"

I disagree, if it only is a language problem, then they must hire translators to assist them on the job, NOT tourists in uniform.

I've never seen something like this in the rest of the world, it's crazy, it's typical Thailand, and it makes more problems than solving them.

Posted by Wilai on November 19, 2013 02:25

Editor Comment:

The expat volunteers (they're not tourists), the people they've helped over the years and the police would all disagree, Wilai. There probably is no country in the world more attuned to volunteer service. The willingness to help others is what made the aftermath of Thailand's 2004 tsunami so different to the outcomes from other natural disasters elsewhere. Ambulance services remain largely voluntary. In many cases, full-time professional rescue services pale by comparison. Perhaps the rest of the world should look at what Thailand has achieved thast they haven't been able to achieve.

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The Editor wrote: "The expat volunteers (they're not tourists), the people they've helped over the years and the police would all disagree, Wilai"

Again, I disagree, I just don't know how you manage to live in this ignorance-bubble? How long time did you stay here? ARE you a noob? Google a bit about the "fine guys" in Pattaya, Nils Colov, Howard Miller and his black SS-style uniformed co-horts, they are really scary! The problem is what kind of people it attracts, power/gun/ego/drug hungry misfits, and you'll have all kind of weirdos playing police-honcho in Thailand. It's wrong, I don't think you know, Ed, how rotten to the core everything is here, DO you know that, or do you prefer the ways of the "blue-eyed naive ignorant" Farang''

Posted by Wilai on November 21, 2013 00:30

Editor Comment:

There's no indication that problems in Pattaya are automatically repeated in Phuket. The problem lies not with the volunteers, but with you making assumptions. (''One bad apple? All apples must be bad.'') Only Doomsayers make those kinds of assumptions.

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The correct thing for (all) the volunteers to do, would be to resign in support of their colleges. Questions might get asked at a higher level than Kathu Police station, then.

Posted by agogohome on November 21, 2013 09:33

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Actually, it is an interesting thing, with the immigration police volunteers.
The one group (Patong Hospital, for example) is not in need, to show off in nice uniforms.
But the other is.
And paying the uniforms themselves.
Correct my statement, if things have changed, after my last chat with a female volunteer 'officer'.
Also, only Non-Imm Visa / extension of stay permit holders are becoming volunteers. And they neither get a wp or the visa, nor they get a extension of stay because of being a volunteer.
They really must love this job, methinks. With no benefits at all (???)

Posted by Anonymous on November 21, 2013 11:01

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@thaiMike

Mikey, you're a bit creepy...in a stalker sort of way.

Actually, I was still renting and residing in patong when i wrote that but had already made the decision to relocate.

I do owe you a big genuine thanks, though, because it was alot of your constant negativity that illuminated to me the myriad problems on the Island.

As I mentioned previously to an earlier accusation from you, I have traveled a bit these past 30 or so years and I can say without exception that Real estate developers like you are a systemic part of the problem for locals and nationals.

I find some small humor in the fact you are trapped in a place you obviously detest.

Cheers

Posted by C&C on November 21, 2013 17:28

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- C&C

I'm not a real estate developer but I'm sure whatever it is that I do, you'd find something profoundly negative to say about it.

Your ego obviously can't handle being proven wrong.

Indeed I am trapped here for about 10 more months but it takes a special kind of person to enjoy seeing others suffer. I'm sure you can spot many more from the top of your ivory tower.

If decisions in your life as important as relocating are decided by what strangers post on forums like this, may I suggest you also consult tea leaves, palm and tarot card readers before your next big decision in life comes up.

Bon voyage.

Posted by ThaiMike on November 21, 2013 23:16

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ok as an ex-volunteer myself, what exactly did we overstep??? When we are ordered to assist and confiscate those iguanas and other illegal endangered species on Bangla (by that same senior officer) then we do it. We expect the browns to be backing us up, but they don't! Have a look at that Pattaya volunteer team. They work very close together with the browns AND have powers to arrest. Concerning the pepper spray, those a-holes carry knives and guns... but then again, touts can't overstep their borders can they???

Pepper spray is the least we can have, and actually CS gas is better, since pepper spray does not work against intoxicated people. I still prefer the days when we are also allowed to carry tasers.

YES we are here to help tourists, but that also includes keeping touts and thiefs away. They just put their animals on you without asking and then charge you money. Of course the browns don't really do anything about it. We all know where their tea-money comes from...

Posted by Sam on November 23, 2013 18:12

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Sam, you got that the wrong way round. OC (pepper spray) is more effective than CN or CS, especially when it comes to people on drugs.

Posted by NomadJoe on November 23, 2013 23:00


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