Readers' Submissions

Phuket Traffic

  • Written by Anonymous
  • August 4th, 2006
  • 4 min read


Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

A friend, an attorney from Los Angeles who in Phuket on vacation, was driving a pickup and executing a right-hand turn within a no-pass zone in a business district of Kata Beach. As he was completing his turn, a motorcycle attempted to pass on the right and ran into my friend’s vehicle. The motorcycle driver was 14-year old, did not possess a driver’s license and broke his toe. Damage to both the pickup and motorcycle were minimal. A policeman showed up at the scene of the accident and made a police report. My friend was threatened by locals who later showed up at the scene of the accident who knew only that a Thai person had been injured in a collision with a vehicle driven my a farang.

My friend, who does not speak Thai, was escorted to the Chalong Police Station where he was questioned and detained for 3-4 hours. No one in the station spoke English and my friend was interrogated in Thai and forced to sign documents of which he had no idea of the content. The detective became visibly angry & belligerent when asked to speak slower Thai so that foreigners (other than my friend) present might understand what was being said.

My friend’s’ passport, driver’s license and vehicle were put in the “custody” of the detective there. Several days later, the motorcycle driver brought several family members who “just happened” to witness the accident and they claimed that my friend did not use his turn signals and thus at fault for the accident. The motorcycle driver requested that my friend pay 20,000 baht. The Police said that my friend could admit fault for the accident, pay the motorcycle driver an agreed-upon amount of money or my friend could contest that he was not at fault and remain in Thailand for many months until the case was settled in court.

My friend, in desperation, contacted the tourist police in Phuket and filed a complaint stating that he could not understand the proceedings at the Chalong Police station & felt that he had been unfairly treated. He requested the presence of the tourist police the following day for a meeting at the Chalong police station. A woman by the name of <name removedStick> at the tourist police, who had previously hung up the phone on my friend (and myself) had been very uncooperative and faxed my friend’s complaint to the Chalong police station in a vindictive act. The Chalong police were not happy with my friend for lodging a complaint.

My friend accepted blame for the accident and paid a 1,000 baht fine for reckless driving. Two days later, he was stopped at the Chalong traffic circle and taken into the police station where he was told that he was driving recklessly and that a “witness” claimed that his driving had caused an accident. My friend paid 1,000 baht to the “witness” and was allowed to leave. My friend was stopped yet again the next day near the Chalong traffic circle and taken into the police station (for no apparent or stated reason) where he was allowed to sit for several hours before was “dismissed”.

What can my friend do to stop these vindictive acts by the police? What department or governmental entity could he contact to lodge a complaint without fear from retaliation?

The Chalong police have a reputation for being ruthless and continue to operate, as they have done for many years, as government-sanctioned thugs. Is it a coincidence that many of the gangland type executions in Phuket have been related to hitmen. I personally know a man who was approached by a hitman offering his services just minutes after my friend filed a report with the Chalong police detailing how his Thai girlfriend had absconded along with his money and expensive jewelry. Perhaps just another “coincidence”….

Even the tourist police thwart efforts to keep the local police “banditos” in check. It’s a pity that a foreigner can be involved in an accident, not at fault and be pressured into assuming all responsibility. I’ve seen it again and again throughout the 12-13 years that I’ve lived here. The local police simply refuse to enforce traffic laws.

The traffic situation in Phuket is disgusting and dangerous. The local style of driving is aggressive with little regard for the welfare or safety of others and does not reflect the kreng-jai attitude that Thais outwardly so highly regard.

I personally know many foreigners (residents and tourists alike) that have gone home in boxes, victims of the Phuket road carnage. Perhaps the only way that the governmental officials in Phuket will do something about the situation is when they feel it in their pocketbooks and realize that the situation here has an impact on tourism.

Stickman's thoughts:

The situation your friend found himself in was very difficult. While he was obviously in the right – at least as per the way the story was told – where he came unstuck was his lack of influential local contacts. As crazy as it sounds, long term foreigners really do need to have some influential Thai friends who would have been able to get him out of this situation right away.

If you get caught up in something here and the police get involved – even if you are innocent – it is going to be a long road if you do not have local friends OR a good lawyer.