Over the past few days reporting on police doing random stop / searches on tourists and expats in and around the Sukhumvit / Asoke area have exploded. The latest trend, in what has been a long running problem, seems to have went into overdrive over the past week if all reports are accurate.
A first hand account from two Europeans and insight from an eyewitness have appeared in the letters section of the Bangkok Post, Stickman mentions readers and businesses close to Soi Cowboy are reporting to him on what seems like a daily basis that cops have upped the ante. A Bangkok blog also ran a story sharing similar stories in a very exaggerated fashion so no link but take away their sensationalist version of events and it paints the same picture of what others are saying.
Cops have been pulling this stunt for the past few years on Soi 22 and along Sukhumvit between 22 and Asoke during the day then at the corner of the Suk / Asoke intersection late at night as a traffic stop plus further down Asoke in a sub soi. It was said by the police that these daytime stop and searches were carried out to catch drug mules moving a stash and this was a common route. The night time checks were to catch anyone in possession of drugs.
So what has changed in the past week or so?
Firstly reports of pee testing are through the roof. People have been asked to provide samples in filling station toilets and at the side of the road. Random pee testing stories were few and far between in the past but not now.
Threats of fines for those without their passport are now a common complaint too. Also the targets seem to be anyone whereas before it seemed more aimed at expats so far as searches during the day went.
And the net has widened too as police officers appear to have teamed up with the tessakit (city officials famed for their 2,000 baht litter fines) further up Sukhumvit beyond Terminal 21 with stop / searches taking place around the mouth of soi 15.
Due to the negative publicity surrounding this new wave of “harassment” I don’t expect it to last long and some excuse will be made that officers misinterpreted instructions from above.
I should point out that these incidents are specific to this one small location in Bangkok and are NOT reported to be taking place at other areas popular with tourists.
I have been stopped at both traffic checkpoints I mentioned above and found the officers conducting them to be polite and professional. The first at Asoke intersection was about 18 months ago and other than sniffing my cigarettes and emptying my pockets the cop sent me on my way in under 60 seconds. The stop and search in the sub soi further down Asoke was a bigger operation with about 8 officers. This happened in May this year and all four of us in the taxi, including two Thais, were searched. The Thais had to provide ID too, me and my son didn’t. Again, we weren’t there for any longer than a minute or two.
Image via Twitter user @AmyAlexSmith