If you thought the tourist and expat shakedowns on Sukhumvit Road had come to an end following almost two months of damaging publicity for the police that resulted in three separate investigations into stop and searches you’d be wrong.
Yes, the Thionglor Police District have done a complete u-turn and are now handing out leaflets explaining search policies and reports of illegal stop & searches seem to have dried up.
What hasn’t stopped are the shakedowns of expats and tourists by the “Litter Police”.
The tessakit (เทศกิจ), employees of the BMA, Bangkok Metropolitan Authority, are still out in force around popular tourist areas of Bangkok fooling the unsuspecting into believing they are real policemen, asking for passports, threatening arrest and court appearances, offering “discounts”, not issuing receipts and leaving people upset and frightened.
The two tessakit hotspots for targeting tourists littering are on the skywalk at MBK and on Sukhumvit Rd from Nana down to Terminal 21. They have been working these two areas for as long as I’ve been coming to Bangkok which is now 10 years.
Littering is against the law and the fine if caught is 2,000 baht. I have no problem with that but what I do have a problem with is how these guys operate.
Firstly, at the MBK skywalk they have a table set up at the stairs leading to the BTS station and business is brisk due to the fact there are NO LITTER BINS and very few warning signs. A public area with such high foot traffic and not a bin to be seen anywhere on the skywalk has me putting 2 and 2 together and coming up with ten.
Secondly, on Sukhumvit Rd they have tables set up at various spots plus booths. Here they work in packs using walkie-talkies with the help of vendors, tuk tuk drivers and other hustlers working the tourists on that stretch of road, who are all getting a “finders fee” of 200 baht for any tipoffs they make that lead to a fine. The “spotters” will follow smokers waiting to see what they do with their cigarette butt when they are finished smoking, ready to pounce if they foolishly throw it on the street. That’s harassment.
Once stopped after littering, foreigners are then typically subjected to a shakedown at both MBK and Sukhumvit. The tessakit will knowingly let people believe they are the police for one. They may offer to reduce the fine and with a smile say “no more problem”. Other instances will see the full 2k fine being asked for with no “discount”, sometimes with a proper receipt but not always.
If they are met with any resistance or questioning they will ask to see passports, threaten the foreigners with a trip to the police station and a much heavier fine, court is another threat they often use and when asked of they are police the answer is ALWAYS yes.
That part isn’t a lie as such as they work for the City Law Enforcement department of the BMA and some uniforms do indeed say City Police on them. It is nothing more than a play on words as the tessakit have NO POWER OF ARREST and are NOT real police officers.
The BMA has dozens of uniformed officials out enforcing the littering law, one that appears to be more of a money-making enterprise than law enforcement. It should also be pointed out that the “litter police” are never seen targeting Thais in the two areas I mentioned, only foreigners.
If you are stopped by the tessakit and feel intimidated or threatened by them call either the local police station or the tourist police.
In the Sukhumvit area call Lumpini Police Station on 02 255 5993 or if you are at MBK then call Pathumwan Police Station 02 215 2992. The number for the Tourist Police is 1155.