In May 2012 Thailand’s Border Patrol Police (BPP) began to prepare for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) which takes effect in 2015, and which poses enormous challenges for border security authorities. It obliges them to rely on peaceful means of dispute settlement, which will require strengthening of both the formal mechanisms and the informal processes for managing trans-border affairs; it expands the definition of security to include so-called non-traditional security issues, such as trans-national organised crime, environmental issues, and disaster relief, as well as protection of human rights; and it mandates liberalisation of national laws and practices with regard to the cross-border movement of people and goods.

The opening page of the BPP GHQ’s website says that ‘Border Patrol Police [are] ready to [enter the] ASEAN Community 2015’. Along with the BPP’s official emblem, it shows the flags of the 10 ASEAN countries and proclaims ‘One Vision, One Identity, One Community’. The website has a link to a document called the ‘Blueprint for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC Blueprint)’. It states that ‘ASEAN has prepared a plan for economic integration’ which has ‘four key elements’: (i) ‘a single market and production base’, with ‘free movement of goods, services, investment and skilled labor’; (ii) ‘capacity-building in ASEAN’s economic competitiveness’, including ‘the development of infrastructure such as finance, logistics and information technology’; (iii) plans for the ‘equitable development’ of all ASEAN members, and (iv) ‘plans to promote ASEAN’s integration into the world community, with emphasis on the coordination of economic policies with countries outside the region’.

The current preparatory phase is mainly educative, i.e., ensuring, through banners, seminars and official missives, that all BPP personnel are familiar with their new and enhanced roles. Actually implementing the principles and norms to which Thailand has pledged will be extremely challenging.

Similar banners to that on the GHQ website, though with minor variations, were erected at the entrances to many BPP Company bases in mid-2012. For example, one was erected at the entrance to the 346th Company’s base in Mae Sot in Tak Province in June 2012. One was noted at the entrance to the 146th Company’s base at Ban Roi Khao, near Dan Singkhon, in Amphur Muang Prachuap Khiri Khan, on 18 June 2012. A sign which says that ‘BPP 336 Company is ready for the ASEAN Community 2015’ was also noted at the 336th Company’s base at Pang Mu in Mae Hong Son’s Muang District on 26 June 2012.

The BPP’s Police Aerial Reinforcement Unit (PARU) at Khai Naresuan in Phetchaburi Province’s Cha-am District erected a banner in early 2013. The 144th Company also erected one at its camp at Ban Pa Dang in Phetchaburi Province (then occupied by the 1444th Platoon) in early 2013. Around the same time, the 326th Company erected one at its camp at Ban Jogo, about one kilometer south of Chiang Khong township in Chiang Rai Province. One was displayed at the HQ of the 33rd Sub-Division at San Sai in Chiang Mai’s Muang District in February 2013. Members of the 3272nd Platoon at Ban Sun Sai in Chiang Rai’s Chiang Saen District, facing the Mekong River, erected a banner in May 2013.

By July 2013, a series of signs had been emplaced inside the 346th Company’s base in Mae Sot, stretching along the road from the entrance to the base to the company HQ and around the HQ building. A banner was erected at a checkpoint maintained by the 346th Company on the R105 about 10 km north of Mae Sot. In August, one was noted aside the dirt track near the entrance to the 3451st Platoon’s bush camp near Ban Huay Bong, about 5 km west of Mae Ramat, Tak Province.

Banners and assorted posters have also been emplaced at all BPP schools (179 as of January 2013). For example, a banner at the Som Thawin Jintamai School in Ban Huay Lang, about ten km south of Wiang Kaen township, in Chiang Rai Province, photographed on 30 April 2013, displays the flags and national emblems of the ten ASEAN countries, gives the formal names of each country, and lists their respective population, capital city, languages used, religion, administrative system (type of government) and currency, and shows the traditional dress worn in each country. A banner at the entrance to the BPP’s Naresuan School at Ban Huay Soke, in the Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi Province, photographed on 3 July 2013, says that ‘Border Patrol Police Nalesuan Ban Huaysok School are proudly to be one of ASEAN Community in 2015’. Another banner attached to a wall inside the school is similar to that displayed at the Som Thawin Jintamai School.

By July 2013, some of the practical implications of the prospective 2015 regime were becoming evident. Most importantly, BPP units had begun replacing regular Army and Thahan Phran units around all of Thailand’s borders. For example, an officer from the 327th Company’s office at Sop Ruak, just north of Chiang Saen in Chiang Rai Province, said on 7 July that along the Mekong River border with Laos, where BPP and Thahan Phran units had been interspersed since 2005, the latter were in the process of being withdrawn and new BPP camps established in their place.

BPP GHQ Web-site, May 2012


146th Company, Ban Roi Khao, Amphur Muang Prachuap Khiri Khan, 18 June 2012


Sign at the 336th Company’s base, Pang Mu, Amphur Muang Mae Hong Son, 26 June 2012


Police Aerial Reinforcement Unit base, Khai Naresuan, Cha-am District, Phetchaburi Province, 28 April 2013


1444th Platoon, Ban Pa Deng, Kaeng Krachan District, Phetchaburi Province, 28 April 2013


326th Company, Ban Jogo, Chiang Khong District, Chiang Rai Province, 30 April 2013


HQ 33rd Sub-Division, San Sai, Amphur Muang Chiang Mai, 5 February 2013


3272nd Platoon, Ban Sun Sai, Chiang Saen District, Chiang Rai Province, 1 May 2013


Sign at the 346th Company’s base, Mae Sot, Tak Province, 3 August 2013


Sign at the 346th Company’s base, Mae Sot, Tak Province, 3 August 2013


Sign at the 346th Company’s base, Mae Sot, Tak Province, 3 August 2013


Sign at the 346th Company’s base, Mae Sot, Tak Province, 3 August 2013


346th Company checkpoint on the R105, Mae Sot District, Tak Province, 6 August 2013


3451st Platoon camp, Ban Huay Bong, Mae Ramat District, Tak Province, 6 August 2013


BPP Som Thawin Jintamai School, Ban Huay Lang, Wiang Kaen District, Chiang Rai Province, 30 April 2013


BPP Naresuan Huay Soke School, Kaeng Krachan District, Petchaburi Province, 3 July 2013


Des Ball is Special Professor in the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre. Olivia Cable is an ANU graduate student focused on Southeast Asian security.