Australian police teach the art of the interview to the Royal Thai Police

The AFP and Victoria Police officers have helped their Royal Thai Police (RTP) counterparts enhance one of the most crucial aspects of any investigation – the interviewing of witnesses and suspects.

The Australian officers delivered an Advanced Cognitive Investigative Interviewing Program to 22 RTP officers in the southern Thailand province of Yala in late March.

Thai law will soon require police to video-record interviews with suspects instead of the current accepted practice of relying on handwritten notes.

The AFP and Victoria Police were willing to help the RTP prepare for the new legislation, as Australian police have been conducting video-recorded interviews for decades.

Detective Superintendent Paul Hopkins from the AFP’s Bangkok Post, Victoria Police Detective Inspector Chris Murray and RTP Lieutenant Colonel Nutthika Keeratithammakrit shared their many years of experience of conducting recorded interviews with the RTP officers.

Southern Thailand is in the midst of a separatist insurgency that has killed more than 6000 people since 2004.

Recent peace talks have reduced the number of people killed each year, but the region remains volatile.

Det-Supt Hopkins said delivering training in an environment where occupational hazards include improvised explosive devices (IEDs) was a unique experience.

“The PEACE model – Prepare, Engage and Explain, Account, Closure, Evaluation – is an international interviewing model, originating in the United Kingdom, relying on the ability of the interviewer to establish trust and rapport,” Det-Supt Hopkins said.

“The Thai students showed they were naturals during the week of intensive practice.

“On the last day of the course, more than 30 IEDs were detonated in the region, with one person unfortunately killed, and the students had to respond to interview witnesses and suspects alike.

“It provided an unexpected opportunity for them to immediately put into practice what they learned about investigative interviewing using the PEACE model.”

Detective Inspector Chris Murray from Victoria Police said the training provided an ethical and effective framework for Thai investigators to build on as they go about their work.

“After 38 years in Victoria Police and having worked in numerous joint taskforces with the AFP, it is satisfying working together, sharing our collective experiences, and imparting modern interview techniques to the Royal Thai Police,” Detective Inspector Murray said.

“The PEACE model is tried and true. It respects human rights while ensuring evidence from both witness and suspect is obtained in a fair and ethical manner.”

The training took place at the RTP Forward Base at Yala, a heavily-guarded compound where police and government employees live and work in a safe and protected environment.

The AFP has maintained a liaison post in Thailand for 45 years. This enduring partnership has significant results in combatting transnational crime impacting both countries.

Taskforce Storm, a partnership between the AFP and Thai law enforcement, has stopped more than 13.7 tonnes of illegal drugs and precursor chemicals from reaching Australian shores since 2016.

The AFP in Thailand also plays a crucial role in the coordinated, region-wide effort to combat people smuggling, human trafficking, child sexual abuse and terrorism.

The AFP has more than 200 members in 34 countries around the world dedicated to working with international partners to keep Australians safe.

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