Museums don't generally register very high among Thais on their list of places for a day out, but the police hope a new facility dedicated to them will be an exception.
Pol Col Jiradul Sothibandhu, chief of the Royal Thai Police Office’s museum section, stands in front of Chitrada Villa, a historical building which will host the country’s first police museum. PHOTOS BY CHANAT KATANYU
"I would like this museum to last for 100 years for our children in the future," Pol Col Jiradul Sothibandhu said, referring to part of the 107-year-old Chitrada Villa in Bangkok which is being turned into the Police Museum.
Chief of the Royal Thai Police Office's museum section, Pol Col Jiradul is supervising the formation of this first-ever facility, which is located in the compound of the Parusakawan Palace near the Royal Plaza.
Its opening, to be presided over by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, is scheduled for March 28, and Pol Col Jiradul's intention is to make the museum one of the best historical venues in Thailand.
The police colonel conceded Thais really aren't the type to add a museum visit to their itineraries. However, he hopes the beauty of the elegant villa, the display of well-selected items and his carefully prepared management plans will be enough to make the museum a popular venue.
The Police Museum is divided into two main buildings: the Chitrada Villa, which displays His Majesty the King's functions regarding the Thai police, and a newly built, two-storey glass building, which exhibits the history of the police force.
The Chitrada Villa, currently registered as a national historical site by the Fine Arts Department, is the pride of the museum. It was built on the orders of King Rama V as a residence for his son, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Vajiravudh, who later succeeded his father as King Rama VI.
The two-storey villa, designed by Italian architect Mario Tamango and completed in 1907, is a mix of the well-known Stile Liberty, Baroque and Rococo architectural styles in Europe.
This architectural and historical significance will add to the experience of visitors who will not only learn about His Majesty the King's works, but also enjoy the beauty of the past as they are allowed to visit all areas of the building, including the bedroom of HRH Crown Prince Vajiravudh.
Police Museum visitors will learn about the Thai police force’s history while appreciating the unique architectural style of the old Chitrada Villa.
The building is intended to allow them to "absorb the atmosphere of the Chakri Dynasty", Pol Col Jiradul said.
For the glass building, the exhibition is divided into six zones, all of which take visitors closer to the lives of the Thai police.
In the first zone, visitors will travel back to the ancient Kingdom of Sukhothai in the 13th century where the police force was first established, and learn of its development in later centuries.
The atmosphere is brought closer to the present era in the second to fifth zones where visitors are introduced to the types of police units, their legendary deeds and what police do in a make-believe police station, which is named "Sor Nor Ratchadamnoen" for the location of the Parusakawan Palace, which is near Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue.
The sixth zone is specifically for children who dream of becoming a police officer when they grow up.
Pol Col Jiradul has dedicated himself to making the museum ready to welcome the public next month. He paid careful attention to the restoration of Chitrada Villa by seeking advice from the Fine Arts Department and asked police agencies and retired police officers to give historical items to display in the museum.
Some declined to give treasured mementoes of their careers to the museum but Pol Col Jiradul did not give up and, he said, "I borrowed them instead", in a way that placed him firmly in the role of a curator desperate to get the best to show to the public, rather than a police officer.
"I volunteered to do this work wilfully though I know it does not support my career progress," said the 45-year-old officer attached to the Public Affairs Division.
"I told my boss I'm ready to retire in this position."
Noting the examples of some less successful museums in Thailand, Pol Col Jiradul vowed he would not let the Police Museum face the same fate.
To make the museum more attractive, he is planning to work with 19 local communities in the old Rattanakosin area by urging them to display their community heritage and wisdom as part of the exhibitions.
He will also form a network with other leading museums in Bangkok to exchange views and experiences and even co-organise new exhibitions.
After many years' work and effort that he and his 10 subordinates have given to the museum, Pol Col Jiradul believes its beauty and knowledge can attract many people, especially police officers who will be awakened to their roles and roots.
At the museum where the officers will learn of the history and past contributions to the country of their fellow police, "they will be proud, but they will be ashamed if they are currently diverted from the right track", he said.
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- Writer: Supoj Wancharoen