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What to do if Thai police stop you and attempt a ‘shake-down’

Thai police
Thai police

First thing… keep calm. Let the the police lead the conversation and don’t say anything other than answering their questions.

Secondly, the vast majority of Thai police are there to do a job, upholding the law, protecting fellow Thais and foreign visitors. But there are a few who will take advantage of situations where they think they can get away with stitching you up for a few thousand baht.

Whatever the laws may be in your country, you are now in Thailand. Whether you agree or disagree with their demands, or the charges they are levelling against you, THIS is not the place for a debate. In most cases, Thai police are not proficient at foreign languages.

Recent events have brought these occasional ‘shakedowns’ to our attention, again, and we would invite everyone to just review these recommendations if you find yourself in this situation.

Thai police are entitled to stop you on the street, or in a car going through a checkpoint, if they are suspicious about anything. 

• Don’t admit to anything or agree to having your photo taken at this stage.

• If they ask to see your passport and ID, do so without fuss, and then politely ask for their return.

• You are entitled, politely, to ask for their ID as well. They all display their name on a name badge.

• Allow any bags or your pockets to be searched – you are entitled to record this process, as long as your filming doesn’t interfere with their search. You should also ask for someone to act as an independent witness during the search.

• Don’t sign anything, especially as the documents are likely to be full in Thai language

• Don’t agree to leave the immediate area you have been stopped, even if they insist that you go to the police station 

• Ask, politely, for the Tourist Police or to contact a Thai friend who can act as an intermediary and interpreter. Thai Tourist Police can be contacted, anywhere in the country, on 1155.

If the situation is even slightly serious – a crash or an accusation of drug possession – insist that you can call for a consular or embassy representative of your country.

• Absolutely remain polite and don’t cause a scene or start shouting – this will NOT end well.

• If they start talking about a fine, or a pay off, whatever the situation, just politely refuse saying that you’re waiting for an interpreter, consular official or tourist police.

On the other hand, if you’ve done something wrong – speeding, drunk, drunk driving, possession of a small amount of drugs, caught vaping or with a vaping  device – be prepared to negotiate an on-the-spot fine and payment. Whatever the police want as a payment will be a lot less than the trouble you’ll have to go through if you choose to refuse their on-the-spot offer. If the Tourist Police, or a consular official, advise you to pay up, do so – they’ve been in these situations a hundred times before.

If you start demanding to see a lawyer, raise your voice or get angry, the situation will escalate and will cause the police to lose face, and that’s about the worse thing to happen.

Infrequently the ‘cops’ that stop you may not be police and, instead, be posing as police officers. If you suspect anything like this then be additionally vigilant about waiting for some witnesses to arrive before you do ANYTHING. You are well within your rights to protect yourself from bad or fraudulent police officers. Be diligent when someone claiming to be a police officer wants to search you or your property.

HERE’s some excellent further reading from a professional lawyer, as reported in Khaosod English

Another good reference article HERE.

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