Country Traffic Cops And Leniency
I was in Nakhorn Phanom last week and due to the rainy season and the standard of roads in some of the outlying towns and villages I decided to rent a 4X4 Toyota Hilux Sport instead of the usual saloon car. After some pretty fun experiences such as driving local monks to the doctors during torrential downpour on muddy roads and trying not to use the F word when coming across stray buffalo (I am sure that even rural monks know the F word and that would have embarrassed me no end), we made it back to town.
I had one last stop to make before returning the truck, needed to find an Internet café to check my mail. We parked up outside a computer shop just meters from a junction with traffic lights and went in only to find that the computers would not connect to the net.
I was told in Thai that "Satellite have problem." OK whatever! After trying for ten minutes I decided to go, after scowling at my missus for asking the girl how much for the session?? How much? I'll tell you how much, F@$k all, that's how bloody much!!
Anyway, we are fist in line at the set of lights to go straight across the junction. Green light appears, out of habit, I still look left and right to make sure all traffic has stopped and across we go.
I see a moped with two male Thai students disappearing under my bonnet. Oops!
I take evasive action (maybe a little late) and pull over to find a completely trashed moped with one staggering student and another lying in pain on the road. Oh shit!
This is the point, where your legs go wobbly.
After hitting me, the moped went into the side of a car driven by a Thai woman who called the police.
Luckily for us there were loads of witnesses. The students were drunk, driving a friend's moped with no license and no insurance and went screaming through a red light straight into me. Incidentally, if they hadn't hit me first they would have probably killed the little girl in the passenger seat of the other car.
So, the cops show up and the first thing they need to see is my license (luckily got an international one last month from UK) and passport. Then we all go to the cop shop and the students disappear in an ambulance. We all wait in the station for these two pricks to be released from hospital and we get down to it. I play dumb but listen and understand all of it. The police were very, very polite to me but behind the smile I really didn't ever want to find myself on the wrong side of these people. An assessor appeared from nowhere and totalled up all the damage, 1,500 baht for us and 5,500 for the other car and the lad was told he could pay now or go inside for 6 months. We spent hours waiting for his parents to come and finally in walks… his sister.
The Thai lady works in the bank and says she wants to know where the family comes from because she is scared of a revenge attack!! If they are from a bad area she will just drop it! What a place.
The cop says he has had enough of this and we all have to come back at 0900 the following day with his parents and get the money.
Back to the River View Hotel (very nice, slightly dated hotel for anyone interested in going to Nakhorn Phanom), where a bottle of wine was consumed to calm our nerves. Next morning of course we are all there except the offender and parents… They eventually turn up 2 hours late and Mum says she has only 3,000 baht and can we come back in 2 more days??? By now I am tired of playing dumb and tell her in no uncertain terms that No, we are going back to Bangkok, pay up now, The cop gave me a knowing smile along the lines of "cheeky sod speaks Thai after all". The cop says she has to pay us our 1,500 and the lady can get hers in 2 days, but the Mum can only leave if her truck she arrived in (not sure it was even hers) is left at the station as a deposit.
We legged it with our money and left them all to argue about it.
My conclusion was that the police were firm but very polite. They never tried to shake me down for anything, and at least 2 of them came up and shook my hand and tried to speak English with me. I am under no illusion that this would not be the case if I were in the wrong though. The thing that annoyed me though was that after all the mayhem these dickheads on the moped caused to us, the other victims, his Mum and his friends, all that he had to pay was the damages (borrowed by Mum anyway) and a measly 500 baht fine. For drink driving alone this prick should have had some decent punishment.
Overall, the situation could have been worse, but I will continue to drive here (when I have to) but the same as in any country, you have to treat all other road users as complete idiots and expect them to do something stupid, but no matter how careful you are, there is no preparing for some things and sadly there are far too many drunk drivers here, both Thai and foreigners. If you are one of them, shame on you, you think you are clever getting away with it or trying to bribe a cop but you are a dangerous person, could you see yourself wallowing in a stinking Thai gaol for killing a little girl cos you had one too many and drove home? Wise up. Life's too short anyway. Let's be careful out there….
Just to fill in few details here, the reason they had to pay was either they didn't have insurance, or (as in this case) any insurance they had was not valid due to drink driving. If you are driving here and cause an accident, so long as you have full insurance you will not be forced to pay money on the spot. That's what insurance is for.