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Phuket Poll: Should tourists driver’s licences be recognised as legal?

PHUKET: The Transport Ministry this week launched standard forms for Traffic Police to use in issuing traffic tickets and offered alternative ways of paying fines issued for minor traffic violations as part of its drive to improve road safety.

By The Phuket News

Monday 18 December 2017, 03:00PM

Foreign tourists in Phuket not knowing they have broken the traffic law is nothing unusual. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

Foreign tourists in Phuket not knowing they have broken the traffic law is nothing unusual. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

The move is perceived as a precursor to Thailand introducing a points system for driver’s licences as used in many Western countries through which repeat offenders, if they commit enough traffic offences, can have their licences suspended or even revoked.

However, and especially at this time of year, a great revenue earner for the Royal Thai Police is fining tourists for operating a rental vehicle while holding only a driver’s licence issued in their home country, for example in England, the US, France, Germany, Italy and Australia.

Motorbike and car rentals shops seem to consistently forget to inform tourists that these licences are not valid in Thailand unless they are accompanied by an International Driving Permit, as issued in their home country under the terms of the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic.

This is the only way the Royal Thai Police recognise a foreign driver’s licence.

Under the 1949 Convention, an International Driving Permit (IDP) is an identity document that allows the holder to drive a private motor vehicle in any country that recognises IDPs. To be valid, the IDP must be accompanied by a valid driving licence.

Many long-term expats like to argue that the 1949 Convention was superseded by the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, signed into effect on Nov 8, 1968. That is not quite true.

The Vienna Convention is an international treaty designed to facilitate international road traffic and to increase road safety by establishing standard traffic rules among the contracting parties.

However, although Thailand signed the both international conventions, not all aspects of the agreements were ratified into law in Thailand – which means not all of the agreements are enforced and upheld in the Kingdom.

QSI International School Phuket

Specifically regarding foreign driver’s licences, Article 43 of the Vienna Convention came into effect on March 29, 2011.

That Article demands that the Vienna Convention “Contracting Parties” – including Thailand – to recognise as valid for driving in their territories: “any domestic driver’s licence drawn up in their national language or in one of their national languages, or, if not drawn up in such a language, accompanied by a certified translation”.

However, this part of the international convention was never ratified into law in Thailand, and so Royal Thai Police officers are fully within their rights to pull over tourists and fine them for not having an appropriate driver’s licence if all they have is a licence issued in their home country.

To this The Phuket News asks readers the simple question, “Should Thailand recognise driver’s licences issued by other countries?”

Responses available in the poll are:

  1. Of course Thailand should. The country signed the international conventions and is failing to uphold its commitment to the international community.
  2. Yes, Thailand should – but only for selected countries and for limited periods of time.
  3. No. The current system already enforced with tourists having to present their original driver’s license and an International Driving Permit is enough.

To vote in the poll click here.

If your preferred response is not available, feel free to add it in the comments below.

To see the results of our previous poll “How serious should the beach smoking ban be?”, click here.



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Kurt | 21 December 2017 - 11:00:35

Part 2:  Police and Park officials make money too.
Think about that dual pricing for National parks.
Pure discrimination of foreign tourists.

Kurt | 21 December 2017 - 10:51:13

The question: Why only tourists are fined for driving without driving lincence, actually asking the same question about a tourist jet ski rider fined in a forbidden area, but the jet ski company who failed to inform tourists about 'no go areas.

The answer is simple. Thailand is in many ways a tourist unfriendly country!
Thai Motorbike and jet ski operators make money. Police and park offic...

Kurt | 20 December 2017 - 14:17:04

Any foreign driving license is of more value than a thai driving license which you can get without even 1 hour driving lesson or practical exam on a public road.
Thailand sits high on the horse with this subject, as long the thai driving education standards not meet the Singaporean.

Timothy | 20 December 2017 - 10:25:05

If a tourist can be fined for not having a licence, why are companies allowed to rent motorbikes to people without licences? This is the total BS system set up to enrich the local rental companies, who could care less if you know how to ride or not, the police who allow the rental of motorbikes to unlicensed people and of course the hospitals.  

Kurt | 19 December 2017 - 19:15:41

A someone here mentioned:  When people ( not only tourists! Please) violate traffic laws are given a fine, yes, that is right!
But when police let the motorist drive on without helmet or without driving license after fine is paid, than police violate the traffic laws by letting a motorist without driving license drive on, and being a possible life threatening danger towards other road users.


Pauly44 | 19 December 2017 - 16:23:00

Because they're policing is inconsistent & revenue based. 
Licenced Thai motorists commit countless moving violations daily under the nose of the police yet they do nothing to routinely enforce their so called laws, instead they take the lazy way out by setting up B.S checkpoints to collect revenue so why would motorists not break the law if the police are so corrupt & inconsistent?

Mika | 19 December 2017 - 15:04:03

Why calling someone a thief if he fines a tourist for not wearing a helmet or not having a license.As this is against the law,than it is ok to fine them and in doing so they actually enforce the law.What is wrong about it?

BenPendejo | 19 December 2017 - 13:56:22

In reality, the laws don't matter, because Thailand does not have an actual law enforcement body...just a collection of uneducated and poorly trained thieves that want nothing more than to take money from tourists...which is all they do. If foreign licenses were recognized and tourists were wearing helmets, then the police would move on to some other BS infraction used to steal money from tour...

Mika | 19 December 2017 - 11:17:55

An online poll about tourist's driver licenses and we read in the comments that officials fly first class eating only chicken rice!It's hilarious!

Fascinated | 18 December 2017 - 19:50:26

Errrr- an IDP is only required if the driver's foreign licence is NOT in English. 

The whole point of an IDP is to present the licence in a recognised international form of language (not that a lot of cops here can read it anyway!). 

It's a big con if one is from a country where the licence is in English. Such licences should be recognised without an IDP.

Stand by for **** and his...

Kurt | 18 December 2017 - 19:23:43

Again! What is wrong so many times with Thailand when it comes to international treaties/commitments? 
Ministers and officials fly first class Thai Airways(very expensive, but only eat chicken rice, yes, yes)to conventions and international meetings.
Put Thai signatures on international conventions/declarations, and next?....Nothing, no upholding commitments to the International Community.

Belzybob | 18 December 2017 - 16:03:55

The information in this bulletin is incorrect. I'm sick and tired of quoting the line and verse for why this is incorrect, so I shan't bother.

The issue is that the Royal Thai Police need education on the laws applicable in Thailand and its international obligations.

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