Saturday I had to drive twice to the old city to visit a store that sells door locks. This particular store because they are the only place that sells the particular knobs and locks we have on our doors. Two visits because I didn’t bring everything I needed the first time to get the right replacement part. While driving on the expressway into the old city, I saw what appeared to be a horse’s head sticking out of a truck a hundred meters or so in front of me.
As traffic thickened on the expressway, I pulled up alongside the truck and found it carrying four horses. Based on the police truck providing an escort, I concluded that these horses are part of the Royal Thai Police force’s mounted division. The police are using mounted units to patrol Sanam Luang, the 30-acre ceremonial field near the Grand Palace that reopened a few weeks ago after a year-long, US$6 million renovation. Interestingly, the first question that crossed my mind was, did the horses get loaded in alternating colors randomly or intentionally?
Thai police come in for a lot of ridicule and scorn by locals. They are variously seen as corrupt (random road stops to extract a few hundred baht in ticketless “fines”) and lazy (recent campaign at a force-wide weight reduction as there were too many tummies stretching the already skin-tight brown uniforms) by many residents.
There is no doubt that some members of the force aren’t the most outstanding examples of fine police work. That’s probably true of any police force. There are plenty of other members of the Thai police who, despite long hours, low pay and terrible working conditions (traffic police have the highest incidence of lung cancer in the country), do their best to keep traffic moving on the choked roads.
It was on a rainy Friday afternoon a few weeks ago that I caught this snapshot of a traffic policeman, slogging through the recently-formed lake that was the expressway entrance toll plaza on Ploenchit / Rama I Road. No doubt he was earning ever last satang of his salary that day.