Police ‘Shake Downs’ & How To Handle Them
With tourism now back in full swing, there seems to be a lot more police checkpoints than I remember, meaning that it’s entirely possible you’ll pass through one of them and go through what I call a ‘standard shake down’.
Here’s some tips if you find yourself in one of these situations while walking, biking, driving, etc…
Remain calm. If you genuinely haven’t done anything wrong, there’s nothing to worry about. Most Thai police officers are good people there to do their job and enforce the law. Yes, there’s some bad actors looking to take advantage of the situation (just like anywhere), but no need to panic or stress right off the bat
In most cases, Thai police officers are not proficient in English or other foreign languages, so it’s best to keep it simple and only speak when they ask you questions. Answer them clearly, concisely, and calmly
If they ask to see your passport and ID, provide them without hesitation, but politely ask for their return.
Don’t admit to anything. If possible, don’t agree to having your photo taken
If needed, you have the right to ask for their ID as well, and they should have a name badge displaying their name
Allow any bags or your pockets to be searched. You can record this process as long as it doesn’t interfere with the search. You can also ask for someone to act as an independent witness
Avoid signing any documents, especially if they are in Thai language and you don’t know what you’re signing
Don’t agree to leave the immediate area you are in
If required, politely ask for the Tourist Police or for a Thai friend to act as an intermediary and interpreter. The Tourist Police can be reached anywhere in the country at 1155
If the situation is serious, such as an accident or drug possession, you have the right to call for a consular or embassy representative from your country
Remain polite and don’t cause a scene (by getting angry, yelling, swearing, etc.), as this will not end well. Avoid any sort of righteousness at all costs.
If you’ve actually done something wrong that’s relatively minor in the grand scheme of things (speeding, possession of an e-cigarette, etc.), you may have to pay on-the-spot fine. Whatever the police want as a fine will be a lot less than the trouble you’ll have to go through if you choose to refuse their on-the-spot resolution
Here’s an awesome additional article on this topic if you’re interested in reading further.
There’s a lot of people that moan and groan about the police here, but in all honesty, I’ve probably been stopped 8-10 times over the past two years and have never had a proper negative experience. Is it enjoyable? No. Do I have fun in these moments? No. Have I had to pay 500 or 1000 Baht on the spot before? Yes. At the end of the day though, I’m a big believer in the 12-things I mentioned above and feel strongly that in 99% of cases, having a basic understanding that you’re not in your home country and putting aside any sort of a righteous attitude/behaviour will go a LONG way in dealing with cops over here.