In what appears to be a rapidly increasing policy of harassing western visitors and residents in Bangkok, such individuals are now regularly being stopped by Bangkok police, where they are interrogated, searched, and made to contribute urine samples. This policy has become infamous in the tourist areas controlled by the Thong Lor and Lupini district police. Westerners are routinely stopped at random on the street, in taxicabs, and when traveling on motorcycle taxis. The stops are held day and night. When stopped, the individual is asked for identification, to empty the contents of pockets and purses for inspection, and a urine sample may be demanded as well, to be given and analyzed on the spot. Those not having proper identification or papers may be taken to a nearby police station, where they are held temporarily until the issue is either resolved or remanded to the Thai court system.
How common is this situation? Over the past few months, it has happened to numerous westerners living in Thailand, and has become a popular, if unwelcome topic of conversation. At least one individual with whom we here at WoWasis spoke shared the experience of being shaken down for a 20,000 baht “fine” to avoid arrest. In the November 29, 2014 issue of the Bangkok Post, visitor Reese Walker described how she and her fiancé were stopped twice by police in two days, interrogated, searched, and urine-sampled. Their crime? Being in a taxi cab in the first case, and walking at the popular Asok intersection in the second. “This is our first and last visit to Thailand,” she says in her letter to the editor. “The harassment of tourists is unacceptable… [we] won’t be recommending other people to visit Thailand based on two frightening incidents of what we believe to be racial profiling.”
Recommendations if you are arrested:
As a westerner, whether a tourist or an individual living in Bangkok, you may very well be stopped at random and subject to immediate arrest by Bangkok police. If you are stopped and harassed by Bangkok Police, especially common in the Thong Lor and Lumpini police district areas popular with tourists, here are some recommendations:
1) If you are taken to a police facility, do not sign anything. You will be verbally insulted and browbeaten (there is no anecdotal data that suggests you will be physically harmed). But refuse to sign. If you do sign, even an acknowledgement that you have been detained can be interpreted by Thai courts as an admission that you resisted arrest.
2) Demand that the police contact your embassy on your behalf. Again, sign nothing.
3) At least one person was able to get the police to release him by saying he needed to go to the hospital “to get my medicine.” Your dying while in police custody is a public relations snafu that the police would prefer to avoid.
4) Particularly on a weekend, you may be forced to spend a night in a Bangkok jail. Hang in there, sign nothing, and sit tight until your embassy representative can assist you.
Tourism in Thailand is estimated to be down in 2014 by a factor of 20% from the year before. Harassment of western visitors is apparently a pastime determined to increase the number of international visitors that see Thailand, once considered a country friendly to visitors, as a country pushed further and further down the destination bucket list.