It’s no secret that some Western countries have long allowed Thai drivers to operate vehicles on their roads, even if just as a temporary measure for tourists. To wit, the UK currently allows holders of Thai driver’s licences to use their Thai licence for up to 12 months. (See UK Govt website here.)
The Thai authorities finally recognising foreign licences would bring a bounty of benefits, but would also bring forth a few perils along the way.
First, it would go a long way for Thailand for uphold the international agreements it signs, much like the eventual crackdown on illegal migrant workers last year. Apparently the powers that be took umbrage with the word “slavery”, or the impending economic sanctions from the US and Europe, and finally took action to remedy the situation for the better.
Likewise, the constant barrage Thailand is deservedly getting in the international press for how lethal the country’s roads are is finally doing its part for the country’s “tourism image”. Recognising foreign licences can help correct that problem, especially when it comes to tourists renting motorbikes – which is probably the most dangerous thing they could do while on holiday here.
The net effect of recognising foreign licences would boil down to, “If they don’t have a licence to operate a motorbike in their home country, then they can’t operate one here.” Simple.
Yet this week Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong shone a little light on one aspect that authorities have been happy to ignore for decades. During a meeting to hear an update on the death and injury count for the Seven Days of Danger road-safety campaign for the New Year, Gov Norraphat pointed out that “motorbike rental operators might not be clear on the rules”.
Recognising foreign licences would also hit police in the pocket for a long-term money spinner: fining tourists for not having a valid – that is, Thai – driver’s licence, or an International Driver’s Permit issued in their home country. Yet it would keep inexperienced drivers off the roads.
If the goal is to save lives, and not to worry about the money to be made from tourists not having the correct driver’s licences, then Gov Norraphat knows which turn to take next.