The Watchman

 |  October 29, 2009

The armed guards in front of Babylonia’s city walls; the special assigned defence force, the vigils, who protected the inhabitants of ancient Rome; the night watchmen patrolling the dimly lit streets of Europe’s cities in the Middle Ages…guards have been around for a long time. They are the privately employed individuals who are paid to protect people, their property and possessions. This being the Guardian Issue, Citylife decided to have a tête-à-tête with some of the security guards you might meet during your daily routine, and an interview with a man who employs them.

The boss

Athletic build, buzz cut, neck tattoo, a big silver ring on his right hand; Somboon Yookasem, 43, looks like a man who can take charge. The former army sniper is the owner of Dutch Security Guard Co. Ltd. A private security company comprising about 50 hired guards. He runs the company along with his wife Orapin and has been in the business for more than nine years. The name of his company was suggested by a good friend of his from Holland. He supplies personnel for around 35 large companies. His men usually work at shopping centres, dormitories, parking garages and the likes. The reasons for company owners wanting to hire security guards are many.

“Dormitories with lots of young girls often contact us. The girls feel safer when there is a guard outside the gates. Maybe an angry, rejected boyfriend might turn up and want to get hold of his ex. A guard can pick up on the situation and refuse him entrance. Parking garages are often exposed to theft. Here a guard’s job is obvious. There are many different needs and tasks for my men,”

According to Somboon, the guards are rarely confronted with real danger; they usually only deal with non-violent crimes and drunken people in need of a taxi home or a pat on the back.

He was a guard himself when he was younger and was promoted to manager after only one month in uniform. He kept this position for several years until he finally decided it was time to go into business for himself. As he sees it, there is an evident need for the service his business offers:

“We supplement the Royal Thai Police Force. They have enough on their hands and they are far from being sufficient. The citizens of Chiang Mai can not only rely on the police,” he says.

The strong, the brave, and the relatively tall

When Somboon hires men for his company (he does not employ women), he knows exactly what he is looking for. He prefers former soldiers who are 20 to 50 years of age, physically fit and taller than 160 cms. Former military personnel are preferable, he explains, since they know hand to hand combat, are disciplined and have a high sense of responsibility. Another essential characteristic is that they can not use illegal drugs _ he gives them urine tests to make sure of this. Even though Somboon will ask the police department to do background checks on new employees, he often hires men with criminal records. According to him, his guard company is one of the few businesses in this field, who will do this.

“I believe everyone deserves a second chance. Not many companies will hire former criminals. When I take them on, they show great appreciation and live up to their responsibilities. This has a double benefit. I keep them out of crime, they keep crime from happening,” Somboon explains.

Chilled but prepared

Nopporn Bunna, 41, works as a guard for Somboon’s company. He is a slim chap with clear-cut features _ outwardly calm, but with an intense gaze. Nopporn has worked for Dutch Security Guard for one year. Before this employment he did the same job for other companies for about 3 years. He is stationed at an apartment complex where he guards the front gate, keeps an eye on the tenants’ cars and makes sure no one obstructs traffic with bad parking. Nopporn enjoys his work and has never encountered any situation which made him feel unsafe.

“My job is quite hassle-free. I make sure that there are no disturbances in or around the building. Sometimes people come home very drunk and make a lot of noise. If I was not here, they would surely cause a racket. But I keep them calm and quiet,” he explains.

Regarding his reason for choosing this professions he explains, that while living in Bangkok, at a certain point he was in need of some extra money. He landed a job as a security guard which paid fairly well. He liked it and decided to stay in the trade. Nopporn takes his responsibility seriously and is prepared to go to great lengths to carry out his duty.

“If the people I guard have any problems whatsoever, I am at their disposal. I will always help out. If it is needed, I will even put myself in danger and risk my own health to protect the citizens I am guarding,” he states.

Nopporn insists that he is quite capable of backing up his pledge. He clarifies, that he is a very chilled out and reasonable person, who thinks before he acts. But he will use force if needed, “I will never attack anyone, but if I am pushed, I will definitely push back.”

The social protector

35 years old Pissut Sukla seems very jolly and talkative. The sturdy-looking security guard is also an employee of Somboon’s and has worked for the company for two years. His place of duty is a large factory. Here he is in charge of surveillance and keeps a special eye on the factory owner’s car. He too has never experienced any hazardous situations on the job. He chose the profession for a different reason than his co-worker Nopporn.

“I chose to be a guard because I like to meet and talk to a lot of people during my workday. I am a social person and many of the factory workers stop by and shoot the breeze with me during my shift. So I get to know people from all over the world; America, South Africa and so on,” he explains with a smile.

Pissut served in the Royal Thai Air Force for two years before becoming a security guard. He enjoyed his military service and has always admired the armed forces. He too ensures us that he does not take his guarding duty lightly and that he is able and willing to take action if needed.

“I carry a firearm and will use it if the occasion arises. I have never been afraid of confrontations and am a fighter by nature,” he explains.

According to Pissut, he is doing the job the Royal Thai Police should be undertaking. He has great respect for the officers, and thinks they do a great job. But he also feels that we need much more of them here in Chiang Mai.

Protect yourself

According to Somboon Yookasem even though our city is a relatively peaceful place, there is a growing crime rate here in Chiang Mai. He recommends people always be alert and take care of themselves and their possessions. Violent crimes do occur, and petty theft is not uncommon here. One type of crime, he says, that is quite troublesome and very grim in nature, is rape. For female inhabitants he has the following advice:

“Never just rely on the police or security guards to shield you from harm. Take measures to protect yourself. Use your common sense and always carry a legal weapon such as an electric stun gun or a can of pepper spray. It might come in handy when you least expect it.”