An old scam has reared its ugly head in Pattaya again. One of our friends was out on his motorbike near south Pattaya when a man in a police uniform pulled up next to him and asked to see his licence. As this is a usual procedure in Pattaya and across Thailand our friend prepared to pay this unofficial tax for being a foreigner but something about this so-called policeman was off. First warning sign, the motorbike the “officer” was riding was an old, clapped out rusty and crappy bike. Now, of course the Royal Thai police don’t always have brand new Honda or Yamahas, but in this case the bike was ancient. This put our friend ill at ease and there were also other signs that this was a scam.
Another sign was the shabbiness of the uniform. Now, we have seen many police officers in Thailand and even if they are on the larger and heavier side, their uniforms tend to be well taken care of with all the metal trim shiny, clean shoes and generally a neat appearance, complete with a name tag. So again, our friend was suspicious of the imposter. This is actually an old scam from Bangkok and also surrounding countries in Asia such as Indonesia where unassuming tourists are taken in by a fake policeman who bought a fancy dress uniform and impersonates a real cop. Not knowing whether the person is genuine they pay an amount like 1000 baht which might seem a small price for avoiding trouble with the law.
Actual sworn members of the Thai police carry firearms. Now, just to confuse matters, there are also police volunteers, who do not carry guns. The traffic police can be seen at intersections directing traffic, and do not have police powers to issue fines. These guys are basically traffic wardens, and they wear a high-vis vest with “Volunteer” written on it. There are also tourist police volunteers, both Thai and foreigners, who also do not have power of arrest or issuing fines, they are merely assistants to the police. None of these guys or girls can issue you with a fine but it would be wise to cooperate with them since obviously they can radio the real police to come and take you to jail.
In addition, it is rare that a lone police officer will pull you over as you randomly drive down the street. Generally the police set up checkpoints to systematically pull people over, or in some cases, there may be officers on a bikes stationed at an intersection, watching traffic and waiting for someone to run a red light or some other offence.
Don’t get conned, ask to see the officer’s badge or call 1155 for the tourist police, even if you are in serious doubt offer to go to the police station to settle the matter. Sometimes cops will offer you to pay an on the spot fine to “save paperwork” of going back down to the station, but real police officers will always go without too much reluctance.
A conman will of course, very quickly disappear once you suggest going to see the real police and getting them involved.