A couple of my friends have posted links to worrisome articles on Facebook about a police shakedown in Bangkok (where we were supposed to meet on NYE).
Allegedly, police have started to conduct “random” searches in the popular tourist night spots in the hope of extorting some cash from them.
Here’s an opinion that was posted on Bangkok Post website (access here):
We are two white, European tourists. After only one weekend in Bangkok, we’re leaving to visit more welcoming Southeast Asian cities.
On Friday night, our taxi was stopped by police. We were told to exit the car and we were searched. My handbag was checked, while my fiance had to turn out everything in his pockets and undergo a frightening and humiliating search at the side of the road. The police refused to answer questions and were quite rude. After finding nothing we were sent on our way with no apology or explanation.
Were this not distressing enough, on Saturday evening as we walked near Asok junction, the same thing occurred. Stopped, frisked and searched. When we asked what the reason was for the search, the police simply laughed at us. The police even asked my fiance to perform a urine test at the side of the road which proved negative.
This is our first and last visit to Thailand. The atmosphere is oppressive and intimidating. The bars and clubs close earlier than other cities. And the harassment of tourists in the street is totally unacceptable. We will be reporting these events to our respective embassies and won’t be recommending other people to visit Thailand based on two frightening incidents of what we believe to be racial profiling.
Here’s what Wowasis (access their piece here) suggests that you should do in case of Thai police trying to extort money from you:
1) If you are taken to a police facility, do not sign anything. You will be verbally insulted and browbeaten (there is no anecdotal data that suggests you will be physically harmed). But refuse to sign. If you do sign, even an acknowledgment that you have been detained can be interpreted by Thai courts as an admission that you resisted arrest.
2) Demand that the police contact your embassy on your behalf. Again, sign nothing.
3) At least one person was able to get the police to release him by saying he needed to go to the hospital “to get my medicine.” Your dying while in police custody is a public relations snafu that the police would prefer to avoid.
4) Particularly on a weekend, you may be forced to spend a night in a Bangkok jail. Hang in there, sign nothing, and sit tight until your embassy representative can assist you.
I was just in Bangkok and will be back on Saturday for five nights. I was then supposed to meet some friends there over the New Year, but not sure how committed they are traveling to Thailand now. We may just choose another destination in Asia.
You have to remember that Thailand is still under the control of the military coup that threw out the democratically elected government earlier this year and the tensions are still high.
Some of these articles and comments suggests that the Thai police have not been able to collect bribes from their usual sources and now are also targeting tourists for these shake downs to make up their “cash shortfall”.
I have never been stopped in Bangkok by the police, but then I don’t usually hang around the Asoke or the Khao San area of the city. I have left some party establishments in a various degrees of drunkenness around Silom, however.
Once when I was in Rio de Janeiro and stayed at the InterContinental hotel (now Tulip), police stopped our cab late at night when we were going back there. They wanted to see my passport and then asked how much money I had with me. I told them that they are more than welcome to come with us to the hotel where I can show them my passport. They didn’t go further than this.
I do agree with Wowasis that you should never sign anything that you don’t understand and should ask the police to contact your embassy that are better assisting you with your legal rights (they have certainly seen everything).