Highway Robbery in Thailand

Today I received an email forward that is doing the rounds in Thailand at the moment. It shows some “highway robbers” in action in Thailand. The lady who took these pictures was annoyed with being pulled over and decided to document her experience. Don’t ask me how she got away with taking these pictures. Maybe because so many people were being pulled over.

This actually happened to me a few years back when I was going down the highway in the middle of no-where. They were literally pulling everyone over for speeding though they had no speed camera to back up their claim. They apparently tried the same trick with this woman saying that she was driving too fast. She told them that it was impossible as her twenty year old car wasn’t capable of going faster than 80 km/ph.

The policeman than walked around the car looking for some other reason to fine her. He then spotted that her rear license plate was missing. She explained to him that it had fallen off recently and hadn’t put it back on yet. She showed him the plate in the back of the car. But, he told her it would be a 200 baht fine that she could pay immediately.

When she was lining up with other people who were also waiting to pay fines, she noticed that there were two kinds of tickets being issued. The above book shows a home-made version made with a stamp. You can see one of these home-made tickets at the bottom of the third picture. There is a drivers license on top of it. She said that the fines were ranging from 200 to 1,000 baht depending on how much you argued and how you behaved.

This final picture that she took shows that there was also a real ticket book which they would sometimes use. Maybe this one was for people who argued too much and had to pay the full price. As you can see, these photographs are dated November 2008. Of course, not all policemen are corrupt. I am not sure what the statistics are, but I have been stopped four times by Thai policemen and only one of them didn’t ask for a bribe first.

12 responses to “Highway Robbery in Thailand

  1. I have heard the reason police do this is because they have to pay for their own equipment. I think my wife was more accurate when she told me the police are out in full force when they need to restock the liquor cabinet right before a holiday.

  2. Now that kind of remind me why I still live in the USA!

  3. I don’t know what to make of my sons plans to become a cop but next year he signs up for cop school

  4. Last month I was stopped in one of the Chiang Mai no-helmet-cycle-driver/rider-round-ups. I was wearing mine, but my passenger had none. 2 farang on a Honda were too good to resist. I got the ticket, but when I turned up to pay it the following day, it was for no international driver’s license! I wasn’t even asked to produce an international license–and I didn’t have one; how did he know? But 200 baht later I was on my way again. I guess the lesson is 1) no helmet for the passenger could result in a ticket (of some kind) and 2) better have an international license [or Thai license] in order to operate a cycle in CM.

  5. It is a mistake to think that all cops are corrupt. I once spoke to an ex-student of mine about this who was going through the Police Academy at the time. He said that the people at the academy looked down at traffic cops for being “uneducated” and not real policemen.

  6. I do a lot of driving around Thailand and this happens quite regularly. I’m always polite with the cops but firm. I haven’t done anything wrong, so what do you want?

    I’ve found that most of the time if you back it up with some Thai, a driving license and a smile, they figure you’re probably more trouble than you’re worth so let you go.

    I reckon if I was Thai this would be far more difficult though…

  7. Just because the others ‘look down’ on traffic cops doesn’t mean the others aren’t corrupt – just that they don’t scrabble about for cash at the side of the road. They are ‘above’ that.

    I’ve been stopped several times by traffic cops. Most times they haven’t asked for anything, perhaps because they see a foreigner. The funniest was an officer who stated directly that he wanted 200 baht. Going through the glove compartment etc., I was just picking up coins to add to a couple of 20-baht notes I had, and after a while he hissed ‘That’s enough’ and took the 72 baht I’d got together.

    Don’t keep your driving licence in your wallet and don’t produce wallet at any point.

  8. This happens a lot in Chonburi near Sr Racha. I was pulled over once, along with every other car, because I was in the outer lane while passing a car in the inner lane. They said it was illegal to use this lane on this part of the highway to pass another car! They just make it up as they go along and most people just pay up.

    In Ari where I live the cops wait for drivers to get in their cars and then say it is illegal to park there – despite the fact that it’s perfectly ok. The police have this signal with Thai drivers – they tap their forefinger and middle finger together (meaning 200 baht) on the window of the car, and the driver silently pays the bribe. A Thai friend of mine keeps 200 baht creased into a small square in his wallet just for the occasion.

  9. I was on a Fino(the plat number was on the fridge)with my gf’s brother without helmet on the way to Big C and we saw a road block 100 metres ahead. He just turned the motor around and went off. The policeman in-charge doesn’t seem to bother at all as many other motorcyclists did the same. They were just hunting for pick ups or car drivers i think.

  10. LOL!
    Highway robbery it is!

  11. Not showing a wallet won’t help. I had no cash, so police wanted my gold necklace. Wouldn’t give so I was taken to the nearest ATM.

    In my part of the country – Khon Kaen Province – the locals accept this, the reason being the police get little pay and it’s the only way they can feed their family.

    On the other hand they don’t like it when the police hang out at the local intersection. Workers cannot get to their jobs without coughing up 200 baht. So they turn around and go home and not go to work. 200 baht out of 1000 baht salary per week is too much.

    It’s an ambiguity in the system.

  12. Saddest part is the complete lack of ability for any Government in Thailand to tackle this.