“I know that you have to make a lot of sacrifices to be a policeman,” Capt Urumporn says, “My parents would have liked me to become a soldier, as my mother was a soldier as well.”
After completing his studies at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School in Nakhon Nayok province, just northeast of Bangkok, he began his career in Phuket at the Crime Suppression Department but was later moved to the Tourist Police due to his command of the English language.
Capt Urumporn holds a Master of Science degree from Sam Houston State University in the US.
One of the biggest parts of his day-to-day job is working with the foreign tourist police volunteers, many of whom possess previous law enforcement experience and are largely British or American.
“These foreign volunteers have a skill better than common interpreters because they normally understand related laws and how our system works,” he says, “We always work together and never leave them to work outside alone to prevent conflicts.”
At the moment, there is only one tourist police station in Phuket Town, with an additional counter service on Soi Bangla in Patong. The department is responsible for assisting tourists and preventing or solving any conflicts that may arise during their stay.
“If you ask me, 'Do I have fun doing this job?', I say yes,” says Capt Urumporn, though he admits that sometimes he misses the different work done by officers at the Crime Suppression Department.
Capt Urumporn says that many cases involve lost tourists, some in the forest, others out on the streets.
Such as the case of Hungarian Farkas Gyula, a middle-aged man believed to be suffering from dementia who was found lost and disoriented in Kamala in early January, and then turned up barefoot on a street in Phuket Town later that month. He was recently sent back to his family in Switzerland.
“Helping tourists in these cases has made me happy because they are safe,” he says, “However, sometimes we are pranked when tourists call us and lie that something has happened to them.”
This may be a reason why the biggest complaint about tourist police officers, according to Capt Urumporn, is that they take too long to arrive on the scene.
It's a common sticking point with police around the world, though in Phuket they try to combat this with a timetable they call the ‘tourist's clock.’
“For example, we know that in the morning tourists like to go to the beach, they visit Patong at night, and so on, so we can set our officers to stand by where they are most needed,” Capt Urumporn says.
Despite the ups and downs, Capt Urumporn says he loves his job and is glad he did not become a soldier.
“I think being a soldier is good, but I like to meet people outside the fence of a military camp.”