This year's advanced anti-terrorism training course, better known by its code name "Naresuan 261," sees a total of 60 police officers attending, double that of past years.
This year is special because the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) has been given a quota of another 30 seats for its personnel, mostly from the Crime Suppression Division's (CSD) commando unit. Seven came from the Marine Police while the other 30 officers came from Border Patrol Police.
The reason is the CSD is to set up a new unit whose main duty is to ensure security for His Majesty the King and members of the royal family as well as other important persons.
One of the toughest training courses of the Royal Thai Police, it has been suspended over the past couple of years because not enough applicants passed the physical strength test required.
"Those who come from the CIB will be selected into a team to ensure security for His Majesty the King," said Pol Col Torsak Sukwimol, deputy chief of the CSD.
The training course takes four and a half months. Now it's been about two months since the 15th batch began its training at Naresuan Camp, in a seaside area in Phetchaburi's Cha-am district.
"Everything about this training must be special. Every skill has to be practised repeatedly every day until it becomes instinctual, be it mastering weapons skills, self-defence skills, or pushing the limits of your endurance," said Pol Col Torsak.
As the CSD will receive an extra budget of more than 200 million baht to cover the cost of purchasing new and high-tech weapons, its personnel have to be trained to make best use of them, he said.
A period of 4-6 weeks has been added to the training for the VIP protection course, which has been updated recently based on an Israeli training module.
"During training, you need to test your limits first," he said, adding trainees can quit at any time if they think they cannot take it any further. However, all remain to date.
"The special team police need to be able to communicate at a deep level so they can understand just by looking in each other's eyes. The codes, the commands and the formats of operations must stress coherence," he said. "We're not training them to become Superman but to equip them with strategies, very intensive ones actually," said Pol Col Torsak.
Since, in real life, these officers cannot avoid risking their lives in the course of their duties such as in a hostage-taking situation or in an international terrorism incident, their physical fitness is tested every week during the Naresuan 261 training to ensure they are up to standards, he said.
Discipline is strictly valued as the trainees cannot waste their resting time. On occasion, a training session which starts at 1am could drag on until 7am, he said, adding that participants have special tasks to complete almost every night.
Their skills in mastering various types of firearms in various settings include the ability to assemble a gun in a dark area. "It not only deals with training in physical endurance but also planning."
Under close supervision of Pol Col Torsak Sukwimol, deputy chief of the Crime Suppression Division (inset) trainees participate in a simulated anti-terror raid.
Those who complete the training are expected to be capable of transferring knowledge to others as well," said Pol Col Denla Ratanakij, the newly appointed chief of the CSD's commando unit.
Pol Lt Col Wachira Yaothaisong, 38, a deputy chief of the commando unit who is the oldest participant in this year's training, found the training course is exactly what he expected when he joined.
He said he has moved from basic level to advanced, including shooting weapons, raids, and physical strength tests.
"I find it's more in my mind than my body as only when I totally believe I can stand it, will my body be able to cope with it. This training does require a great deal of physical strength to accomplish long tasks in the morning, during the day and deep into the night," he said.
He thinks the course is designed to help participants adjust the amount of strength required in different situations.
"Although there are officers at different ranks, we've become more like brothers than superiors and subordinates. We're teams and every team works together as a whole unit," he said.
Pol Capt Nat Khrutnoi, 27, also from the commando unit of the CSD, said he believes in the standards of the course.
Pol Lt Col Jesada Sommanas, 35, also from the unit, said he agrees participants need to acquire special skills, which they will have to master in special operations in real life after the training.
"It's important for all of us to keep practising because it isn't a matter of any individuals but the entire team when it comes to safety in a special operation," he said, saying teamwork was the key.