Daily Archives: June 30, 2009

Thai Police vs Foreign Tourists & Double Standards

Khao Sarn Road Cop Box (AKA: Chanasongkram Police Station) seems to have a fetish for trying to bust pot-smoking backpackers but not the hundreds of scammers operating in their vicinity.

Let me take the chance today to write a blog of a more serious nature.

One of the biggest stories of the week to have surfed on the Internet via The Times of the UK is the story of a British couple who apparently ended up paying 8,000 pounds in bribes to the cops to secure their release. This doesn’t sound like one heck of a unique story, but that it supposedly happened after an incident of shoplifting at King Power Duty Free, the biggest of its kind at Suvarnbhumi International Airport, makes your mind boggle.

Since their introduction at Suvarnbhumi Airport, King Power Duty Free has been dogged in scandal. First there was the never-ending land affair scenario and then constant reports of King Power handing over to the airport police anyone caught trying to pinch anything from facewash to a bottle of Scotch. According to www.thaiprisonlife.com for a crime like this, Samut Prakarn provincial court dishes out a one year prison sentence. Or as ‘Gor’ an inmate there and co-founder of www.paknamweb.com put it “Not a week goes by without a shoplifter from the airport duty free arriving”.

Theft is a serious crime in Thailand which most foreigners fail to realize. However, most stores in the country have a policy, since they know that shoplifters can be incarcerated for a year at a time, where they fine culprits 10 to 100 times the value of the attempted stolen item; instead of calling in the Boys in Brown. How come the owner of King Power Duty Free, reportedly best buddies of super influential yet banned politician Newin Chidchob, authorize a smarter policy like this instead of sending naïve foreign shoplifters to over-crowded slammers for the year?

Now on to the subject of this blog; here we have police arresting a supposed shoplifter without first hearing his or her side of the story and banging them up for a maximum of 72 hours before offering them the chance of posting bail (according to reports = 100,000 Baht for shoplifting at Suvarnbhumi). Of course there is CCTV, but unfortunately since this is a case of Guilty Before Proven Innocent, any footage will only be looked at, by the police that is, after the suspect is out on bail.

Yes, perhaps the cops are only enforcing the law – yet right in front of the airport are squads of scammers preying on newly arrived foreign tourists. After agreeing with a tout and his taxi driver to take him to Pattaya for a 1,200 Baht, he is then asked to fork out another 1,000 for the petrol costs on the expressway a quarter of the way there. If the tourist disagrees, the scamming driver threatens to dump him in the middle of the highway or even cheekily report him to the police.

Instead of continually clamping down on and incarcerating frivolous foreign shoplifters, how come the airport cops don’t promote tourism and their country and crackdown on the scammers who are operating right under their noses right outside of Suvarnbhumi Airport?

Double Standards.

Perhaps the top cops working in tourist areas need to take a good look at this website.

Now, let’s go elsewhere and start with Khao Sarn Road. According to the Thai law, a law enforcer is only allowed to search a suspect if there are grounds that that person is carrying something illegal. I say ‘grounds’ as in evidence – stopping a farang backpacker nearby Khao Sarn Road and frisking him for narcotics for totally no reason at all is against regulations. Or as stories that have surfaced, the cops even pinch a few Baht while they are at when searching the suspect’s wallet. Contrary to popular belief, the case of possession of a small bag of say ganja is not a serious offense. After posting bail and going to court, the judge usually orders a basic fine and a suspended prison sentence (for first time offenders). Khao Sarn Road police have a fetish for busting or trying to bust ignorant pot-smoking backpackers; yet, they have constantly turned a blind eye to the multitude of scammers (in their vicinity) who prey on tourists.

Anyone who has ever been in the Khao Sarn Road or Temple of the Emerald Buddha area has been subjected to some scammer telling them the Grand Palace is closed but a Big Buddha temple and after a jewelry store and tailors shop are open for business. Then, right outside Khao Sarn Police Station on the entrance to Khao Sarn Road itself are a dozen or so scamming tuk-tuk and taxi drivers offering delirious fares, prostitutes and even ganja. How come the police don’t crackdown on them for a change?

Another case of Double Standards

The stories of pot-smoking backpackers being busted on the hippy full-moon party island of Koh Phangan and being forced to pay over 3,000 or so US dollars in bribes to secure their release are now reaching legendary status. Putting paranoia into the suspect caught, it is reportedly common practice for the apprehending cops on Koh Phangan to advise him that smoking a reefer in Thailand is a totally serious offense that can land you in prison for years. There are also innumerable stories of the amount of ganja found to have grown ten-fold by the time the cops weigh it at the station.

Yes, the backpacker is a bit of an idiot for smoking pot on Koh Phangan; yet much of the time the seller is a local guesthouse or bar owner/employee who is apparently best buddies with a local cop or cops. Then, co-incidently, 5 minutes after the naïve backpacker scores his dope from the joint, the drug-busting cops make their scoop and amazingly know, right away, where the druggie is stashing it. Koh Phangan cops, like their Khao Sarn counterparts, also have a fetish for apprehending pot-smoking farangs. Yet, the sellers are seldom, if ever busted and mafia-style bus (songthaew) drivers are free to rip-off passengers at every opportunity. The stories of scams coming out of Koh Phangan are reaching pandemic proportions but yet the cops sit back, drink their coffee while eyeing some foreigner behind the bars busted for smoking a reefer.

Yet another case of Double Standards.

On the subject of scamming bus (songthaew) drivers acting like gangsters ripping off foreign tourists, let’s go to Phuket Island. Anyone who has ever been to Phuket relying on public transport has been perplexed to why there is no direct public transportation between Patong – Karon and Kata beaches. Songthaew/tuk-tuk drivers are so offered the opportunity to charge horrific fares from one beach to the other ie… a 5km ride for 500 Baht. Since there aren’t too many pot-smokers to arrest and reportedly suck money out of on Phuket, the police there have a fetish for pulling over and fining every foreign car or bike driver for any offense at all that they can think of. Local drivers are just waved by.

How come the police don’t seriously crackdown on the ‘mafia’ songthaew/tuk-tuk racket operating on Phuket? And how come successive Phuket governors have never once thought of regulating public transportation directly between the main tourist beaches?

Generally speaking, many Thai police in tourist areas are not only staining their own reputation but also that of Thailand’s.