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Police introduce system to reduce passport fraud in Phuket

PHUKET: Kathu Police met with more than 30 motorbike rental shop owners yesterday (March 12) to try and work out a solution to tourists using their passports as guarantees for vehicle hire.

Anthika Muangrod

Thursday 13 March 2014, 03:01PM

Motorbikes are a popular method of transport in Thailand. Photo: Kullez
Motorbikes are a popular method of transport in Thailand. Photo: Kullez

After Luigi Maraldi’s passport was given back to the wrong person during a mishap in 2013, police now want to change the system and are asking renters not to keep passports of foreigners.

Police Investigator Pol Capt Khunnadet NaNongkai said from now on, he encouraged all renters in the Kathu area to use the LINE cellphone application to transfer details of foreigners to the police directly.

Renters should send them head shots, plus passport information and other details using this app, but they should not confiscate the passport.

Jirapat Pochanapan, head of Kathu Police, advised motorbike renters, “Never keep the passports of tourists because you will be charged with embezzlement of someone else’s possession. If you must keep the passport, you must get the customer to sign to say they are willing to give you the passport for the rental process. This will protect you.”

Police would also be enforcing the rule that all foreigners were required to keep their passport, or at least a copy, on them at all times.

“I will tell all the hotels and businesses to inform the tourists about this rule. Then in about one month, we will officially start to enforce this rule. Foreigners who aren’t able to show their passport or a copy will be fined no more than B1,000,” Capt Khunnadet said.

Motorbike renter Chonnipa “Pum” Sukkasem explained what happened when a customer stole a rented motorbike, and said real passports as guarantees were essential for bike owners.

“We need to have the real passport of the customers because it’s a guarantee that if anything happens, we will still have something.

“Once, a Russian customer came and said he wanted to rent my motorbike, but he wanted to test the engine first. I let him, then he drove off and never came back again. Can you see; this is why we need to keep the passports.”

Ms Chonnipa said a copy of a person’s passport was useless.

“Before I was aware of this, I only asked for a driving licence from an Australian. He caused a big scratch in my brand new motorbike. When he came back, I fined him B4,000. He told me, ‘It’s just a driving licence, I can get a new one when I get back home’, and he refused to pay. Even if he paid eventually, I still feel this is really risky for motorbike renters. We still need the real passports for our guarantee.”

British International School, Phuket

Another motorbike renter explained how important real passports were for the motorbike renters.

“Once incident happened to a friend of mine. A customer (who put down his real passport as a guarantee) rented a motorbike then damaged it. He didn’t return the motorbike back by the due date, so my friend reported this to the police.

“The customer went to his embassy and said he lost his passport in Thailand, and got an emergency travel document from the embassy. But he wasn’t able to fly home because his name came up at Immigration at the airport, and the police arrested him then. My friend got her motorbike back, plus compensation.

“You have to see things both ways,” she told those at the meeting.

“Nowadays, customers have lots of tricks to fool us.”

But keeping the passports belonging to customers is not entirely foolproof to ensuring you get your money back, Kamonchai Detpichai, a motorbike renter on Patong Beach told the meeting.

“I faced a situation that showed that having the passport of a customer doesn’t help if the authorities don’t help too. One time, a customer gave me his passport, then damaged my motorbike and didn’t return the motorbike in time. He just left my bike somewhere and didn’t tell me. I found out he had gone to the embassy and asked for an emergency travel document, and the embassy issued it!”

“I reported this to the police and to the embassy, but I never got a reply back. Still to this day, I never got any compensation and I had the repair the motorbike myself.”

He also raised another problem: that many foreigners who are living in Thailand, for example, Russians, Vietnamese and Indians, are opening motorbike rental shops using Thai nominees.

This was bad because it meant that there were less business opportunities for Thais, he said.




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