The response prompted a strong reaction from the foreign community in Phuket, and abroad, noting that the same old game was nothing new, already well known for years.
The claim by the Phuket Provincial Police that the traffic police officers in question in the post online were only enforcing traffic regulations to help reduce the number of accidents on the roads, hence helping to preserve life and limb of foreigners and Thais alike, was laughable.
If the police were sincere about reducing road accidents in Phuket we would actually see moving violations served. As for the strong emphasis in the response that the police are not overly selective in targeting foreigners, that notion would be dispelled by spending just one afternoon watching police at Chalong Circle performing their “road safety duty”.
The fact that the public response from the Phuket Provincial Police was unsigned by any named officer, or any official for that matter, only strengthens the perception that police are going to keep their distance from this one. Maybe they already know what everyone else understands.
Like any well-run scam, the systemic fining of foreign tourists for traffic violations – namely not having a valid driver’s licence recognised by Thai authorities – depends on the rules actually being genuine and posted publicly to safeguard those profiting from the operation. Not doing so is called is called entrapment.
This the police certainly have in their favour. Warnings about the requirements for being able to legally drive in Thailand are posted in travel advisories, on travel blogs, chat rooms and elsewhere all over the internet. The problem is that many tourists do not bother checking before coming here, and the police know it.
A genuine effort to prevent the fallout from tourists telling all their friends about their “Amazing Thailand” experience in being fined by the Royal Thai Police has been launched before . The campaign targeted motorbike rental shops to ensure that tourists have the appropriate licence to legally drive in Thailand before being allowed to rent a vehicle out to the tourist. The irony was that the aim of the campaign was to focus on keeping tourists legal, not on the officers raking in the fines. (See stories here, here and here.)
One idea promoted for many years is to warn tourists of this requirement in the destination arrival briefing while they are still on the plane on their approach to Phuket, that is while they are still a “captive audience”.
The same arrival briefing should also warn them of the need to wear a face mask while in public areas in Thailand, and that the initial fine is up to B1,000, not B20,000 as widely announced earlier this week. That should help correct errant behaviour by and – and onto – unsuspecting tourists.
Expats here have little excuse. Learn the law, stay legal and do not give corrupt officers the opportunity to land themselves a bonus. If the officer is intent on extortion, force him to go the mile. The extra effort required goes against the motivation for a shakedown. The idea is to get easy money.
Once the officer is forced to file a genuine report for the alleged transgression, the opportunity to make any extra money is gone and the accused has the right to deny the claim against them by the police in court, just like anywhere else.
That is the best advice we can offer.