The New Era of Speed Enforcement in Thailand

| July 15, 2012 | 20 Comments | 12,155 views

The Red Shirt government has brought a lot of changes to Thailand. Many are are not reported in the newspaper but you encounter them on a daily basis. Most ,in my humble opinion, are moves in the right direction, i.e. moves toward a nation of laws where everyman is equal under the law regardless of race or socioeconomic standing. The structural problems in the political system, the absence of a truly free press, and a lack of a politically independent judiciary still remain but, at least, things are not regressing.

On, I’ve written about the changes in visa procedures and the tightening of loopholes importing luxury cars which occurred after the Red Shirts took power. This weekend I encountered another change. An attempt to end police corruption in speed enforcement.

In case you don’t drive or you don’t read, Thailand’s long standing speed enforcement system was to be stopped at a road block and offered the choice  of 1)  having your license taken, issued a written citation, and having to appear at the local police station to pay the fine and recover your license or 2) pay the officer directly. Paying the officer directly meant negotiating the fine downwards (400 THB is standard in Bangkok and 200 THB in the provinces).  Paying directly meant the officer put the money into his own pocket (and likely kicked back a substantial portion up the chain of command). This long standing system was prone to abuse because officers could and frequently did make up infractions simply to create the opportunity to line their own pocket.

There was nothing evil about paying the officer directly as a certain more paranoid expat internet commentator has written on his popular weekly column. Over more than a dozen traffic stops and while paying more than dozen fines directly to the police officer there has never been a hint of an evil plot to extract large amounts of money for bogus crimes or offenses. The transaction is conducted with a smile, the only threat issued or implied is that you will have to go to the local police station to pay a higher fine if you don’t want to be involved in the corruption. You broke the law. You pay the fine. You go on your merry way. End of story.

For foreigners, the system is innocuous or even preferable to Western style speed enforcement because the money was trivial compared to the cost of similar infractions in the U.S. Sure you were being extorted but most often you were guilty of speeding and who cares whether your money ended up in the officers pocket, his commanders pocket or in a government bank account.

With the advent of speed cameras in Bangkok, the system morphed. With speed cameras, the local policeman and corruption is cut out of the loop. A combination radar gun and camera  takes a picture capturing your license plate and speed and a ticket is mailed to the vehicle’s owner. The problem with speed cameras is that driver’s license/registration records are not computerized, there is no cross referencing of tickets and vehicle registrations or license renewals, and Thai’s quickly learned there was no consequence to simply throwing the ticket away. And that is what most do. The speed cameras generate tickets but no revenue.

On a recent run to Pattaya, I encountered a new system being used.

This is one of the toll gates on the Chon-Buri Tollway (route 7) that runs from Bangkok to Suvarnabhumi Airport to Pattaya. At each gate there is policeman with a walkie talkie. I’ve encountered this situation many times. As you transit the toll booth, the policeman waves you to the side of the road, takes out his ticket pad, tells you how fast you were allegedly going, and pretends he is going to write you a ticket. This is where you offer him the 400 THB, he quietly slips it into his pocket, and you go on your merry way.

This time something different happened.

When offered the bribe, the office politely declined (he actually chuckled) and I was waved over to this folding table and group of officers.

I was issued a ticket on the spot (500 THB for doing 141 in a 120 zone).

What was interesting is that the transaction was videotaped (note the video camera in the picture) and there were two sets of records kept.

The first was the actual ticket book where each citation has a serial number and they are sequential.

The second was a master log where the serial numbers are listed along with the infraction and the amount of the fine.

I was required to sign both and the master log was initialed by one of the officers and one of the girls.

The serial numbered ticket book is the same system used in many U.S. jurisdictions and can be used to verify if tickets are disappearing. New York city policemen were recently uncovered fixing tickets by this system. If all the tickets, serially numbered, don’t appear in the final records, you know something happened to one of them.

With this system, all the tickets are accounted for, all the money is accounted for, and if money is missing there is a video record to show where it went.

Honestly, I prefer the old system. The fines were cheaper, it took less time, and it made you feel like you were in strange and different culture having an adventure.

Most expat internet commentators work under the assumption that Thailand is corrupt. That’s the way it is, always has been, and always will be.

I prefer a more nuanced view of Thailand. As incomes grow, education improves, and Western ideas and experiences seep into the culture, Thailand can’t help but move to a more just and fair system — one that emulates the United States. One where the every man has god given right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness and those rights are protected by the political and legal system. And where hereditary power, the economically  powerful, and the politically connected  are kept in check by  a democratic process and the evenly applied rule of law. Over time the positive effects of the U.S. system will permeate Thailand, raising standards of living, increasing the human dignity of the down trodden, and producing a more fair and just society.

BigBabyKenny —ever the optimist!

Comments (20)

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  1. Flabbergasted says:

    The closer Thailand gravitates to the west, the closer you get to say bye bye to bar girls.
    Btw, cant you just enjoy life without analysing everything?

  2. Only Idiots Pay Too Much says:

    400 baht = YOU PAID TOO MUCH


  3. The Fucktard says:

    Had a shit today. It was brown and soft. This means Thailand is becoming more like the West. 


  4. Gaywalker says:

    Really Kenny? Those speed checks didn’t exist before the Red shirts? Are you sure?

  5. Truth Corrector says:

    Name one thing the FUCKTARD has gotten right so far.

  6. Ronru says:

    Hey DUMBASS.

    Did you know one of the criteria Google uses to rank web sites is the number of new comments each day?

    Keep up the good work FUCKTARD!


  7. Harry Zink Big Baby Whore Hooker Chaser Bangkok Thailand says:

    Keep commenting so this thread stays at the top of the search engines. Hahahahahahahahaha. HAHAHAHA… Disgraced No Class

  8. Robert says:

    Amazing how many fucking idiot Farangs complained about the old system.  I’ve been in Thailand 7 years and have driven about 200,000 kilometers and have never been stopped for something I did not do.  Paying the fine on the spot was a priviledge that I enjoyed, if I did not have change, I would happily give the officer 1000 Baht and tell him to donate the change to a Wat.
    The law and order types will likely get their wish and in a few years Thailand will be as chickenshit as the hellholes we left to come here.
    By the way, the Thai cops were perfect; they were honest enough to not stop you unless you actually did something but dishonest enough to accept the “fine” on the spot.  You would have to be a complete moron to complain about that. 
    By the way, I was stopped at the toll booth when the Democrats were still in power and had to pay an official fine at the table.   Still there are no stupid points on your license or any crap like that.

  9. Robert says:

    PS:  There are signs in English saying the toll booth is 5 kilometers (3 miles away) that’s the time to slow down.  Also those who whine about the Thai cops should try driving a car with California license plates into Mexico.  Those bastards just pull you over and demand money and don’t even bother to invent a reason.  The Thai cops are very honest by comparison.

  10. Robert says:

    @Soon To Be Disgraced Econ Prof    You worthless American cunts, both female and male wimps are all the same.  Corporate sex shop tourism is OK, but a guy going somewhere he can have some fun with another adult really bothers you.  Probably because you fat bitches can’t stand the thought of a man having a good time without putting up with your spoiled western bitch attitudes.  Pussy is nothing here, money is God, if you have you can have all the trim you want. 
    Besides, everyone needs a hobby, some people travel to see pyramids, others prefer to see clitorises. Drop dead if that troubles you.   

  11. FYI says:

    The main complainer about “the old system” is Stickman. 

    Stickman preaches on his site that any farang pulled over by the police is going to have a false charge leveled against them, get thrown into jail, and have to pay 100,000’s of baht to get free. He cites this as the reason he sold his car.

    The real reason he sold his car is he got short of money because of his divorce and the loss of his teaching job.  The BS in his column was a smoke screen to disguise this fact. 

  12. Robert says:

    That’s a crock, I pushed it to the limit, when I first bought a car here I had to get used to driving on the left side of the street since I’m American and had been driving on the right side for 35 years. At an intersection, that means you look to the left first,then to the right.
    I accidently pulled out in from of a Thai motorcycle cop who hit my new car hard enough to tear off the plastic shroud covering the front bumper and grill.  They were incredibly reasonble and polite about the whole affair even though the officer needed to go to the hospital, his motorcycle was damaged and I’m sure he was sore for a few days.   All they wanted to know was whether or not I had been drinking, since I had not it was treated as an accident, I did not even get a ticket.   I told the officer to get his bike fixed and bring me the bill ( I happily would have bought a new one for him) and never heard anything else about it.

  13. FYI says:

    Stickman was unusual in that he lives in Bangkok and bought a car. Most expats live without one. Most live with a motorcycle either. Most Expats don’t have much direct knowledge of car ownership or driving in Thailand.  

  14. Bullshit Detector says:

    Your website is rootkit infected.

  15. Robert says:

    Had another funny run-in with the Thai Police today,  coming back from Sukhothai I was stopped at the check point south of Kamphang Phet, and told I was doing 125 , don’e know what the speed limit was, but I really was going a lot faster than that.  Justice was dispensed with a smile, I walked over to the table. paid my 200 Baht (or $6) fine and was on my way.  I was even told that if I got stopped again today, show the officer the ticket since I had already paid the fine. 
    The Thai Police are OK in my book.

  16. Sockpuppet Detector says:

    Found! Kenny again posting as Robert.

  17. SWSM is Kenny Speak For Street Walker Super Market Whores Hookers Prostitutes for Sex Tourists says:

    You have to go fast to get more bang for the buck!.

    “All to serve the higher purpose of getting laid better, cheaper, and more efficiently.”

    We need more about Kenny v1.0 negotiating and paying less for sex.

  18. SWSM is Kenny Speak For Street Walker Super Market Whores Hookers Prostitutes for Sex Tourists says:

    BigBabyKenny v1.0 legacy

    “All to serve the higher purpose of getting laid better, cheaper, and more efficiently.”

    We need more about Kenny v1.0 negotiating and paying less for sex.

  19. SWSM is Kenny Speak For Street Walker Super Market Whores Hookers Prostitutes for Sex Tourists says:

    Google BigbabyKenny thaifactfile and the timemachine

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