Thai police force began with 'farang' chief and Malay officers
The word "police" (“tumruat”) in Thai has its roots in Cambodia’s native language, Khmer, and the oldest evidence of this word in Thailand can be found in a stone inscription in Lopburi province, which was created between 1022 and 1057.
It is believed that this term referred to individuals who worked in government-related roles.
However, the oldest known institution in Thailand with functions similar to the modern police force existed during the Ayutthaya period under King Borommatrailokkanat (1448 to 1488).
During that time, police officers acted as royal guards and worked within the Grand Palace. They would accompany the king wherever he went, and they were allowed to carry weapons within the palace grounds.
Additionally, these officers served as a judicial body to settle disputes, as if the king himself were the judge. To become a police officer during this period, one had to come from a respected family lineage and earn the trust of the king.
During the reign of King Mongkut or Rama IV (1851 to 1868), the police force was formally established in 1860 to maintain peace in the capital, Bangkok. Its main duties were suppressing disturbances caused by bandits and ensuring the safety of the population. They had the authority to intervene in disputes.
Captain Samuel Joseph Bird Ames, an Englishman who had worked as a merchant ship captain, was appointed to establish this new police force. His expertise in maintaining regulations and discipline on ship operations led the King to believe that he could help establish a police organisation. As a result, Captain Ames became the first police chief in Thai history.
The chief of police was a foreign national (“farang” in Thai), and the police officers themselves were not Thai either.
Malay Muslims were hired to serve in the force, which created problems from the beginning, as they did not understand the local language, customs and traditions. They were mocked by the locals.
People also complained that the police did not take their duties seriously, lacked courage, stole people's food, did not pursue criminals, and slept on the job. These issues led to a negative perception of the police.
But as the police force expanded, recruitment was opened to the locals to join the police. Eventually, Thai people were recruited into the police force.
During the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), who modernised Thailand significantly, there was further development in the police force. The city was expanding, and there was a need for more police presence in various regions.
Furthermore, the status of police officers was elevated to that of civil servants, and a police academy was established.