Readers' Submissions

Red Number Plates

  • Written by Lecter
  • August 24th, 2006
  • 4 min read


Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

You've had a few stories about red number plates. Here's one I'll bet not many people know about.

My experience with red number plates covers two vehicles, a BMW about four years ago, and a Toyota now. With the BMW we kept the red plates for about 18 months until the jokes by colleagues about my "new" vehicle forced me shamefully to go and get my plates done. Got a good number without paying graft ending in 330 to match the engine. Couldn’t be happier. Only ever got hassled once for having red plates on a "two year old" car and once for being out at night… still wonder what that rule's about.

Now to current times. I flicked the Beamer as it was four years old and I always feel an old car like that is in a "maintenance window", hence the "get rid of it". We could use the money on another vehicle and our new house. (Note for those who don’t realize this, I paid my beamer off, 20% down and the balance in a lease with a balloon. Simple.) We chose a Toyota Fortuner as they are big diesel donkeys, leather interiors and go really well. Gone are the ultra-expensive beamer days (and they are now 1M dearer now than when I bought mine) and we're in more practical "7 seater" times, no regrets!

Well of course we have some nice red number plates. My understanding is that the number plates, red, come with a book. You have this book for the handover when your plates are ready for collection. You have to go into the LTO and select a number, opt for a random one or get in the auction for a cool one (like "1" or "888" etc et al). Your sales people should then do the rest. Now I was overseas when my car was delivered so I never really went through all of the paperwork. I didn’t notice that the "Red Plates Book" was not there. Now I know why. We were driving down Viphavadee Rangsit a week or so ago when the baht collectors in brown pulled us over. We had clearly done nothing wrong, usual thing, he was looking for a donation. He walks to the front of the car, checks, double checks and then waves us over to the side (for better processing). Now it's 3pm, so it's not night time, we have seat belts on, we're not speeding (the silly brown putty brigade was blocking the traffic, so this was impossible). Big cheesy grin on his face, he wanders back to the car and informs us that the red plates are not "Government". Huh? Toyota puts fakes plates on the car? Bullshit I exclaim. My better half gets on the phone to my Toyota sales representative and asks what's going on. He confirms they are bogus plates and recommends that we pay the officer an "inconvenience" tax and he'll refund it to us. So here we are, sitting with a bunch of brown uniformed galoots, salivating at our plight, and I am hoping that I have some change. Nothing worse than having "pun baht notes" only in this circumstance, asking for change gets them going… for sure!! So I fish out a couple of reddies and hand them over without waving them about (they hate that) and we're waved merrily on out way.

So this now begs a few questions.

  • Am I insured? – I am not sure I am. Toyota would have some serious liability should I have an accident and not be insured because they put bogus plates on the car.
  • Is this "really" OK with the Authorities? – it's a revenue generator for the coppers, but it may be condoned due to the excessive numbers of cars hitting the roads. Also Toyota probably pays less in fines than actual government fees, although this is not verified.
  • How can you tell which plates are which? – this question vexed me, until I had a closer look (prompted by a Thai colleague) and I noticed the small Government imprint embossed on all "official" plates. Mine is without this little mark, I now feel inadequate somehow…

What’s the advice? Well its simple really, look for the “Red Plate Book” when you pick up your car. It’ll be part of the paper work. There’s always a mountain of it, and I find it difficult to understand some of it, as there’s stickers for the windscreen, papers for the glove compartment and other documents you need to keep handy such as the Insurance details. You need these as you can be in all sorts of strife should you get into an accident and you cannot call your insurance assessor (there must be thousands of them around) to come and assess the accident and clear up the “small” items such as injury compensation etc. I will have an upcoming article on what happened to me when I cleaned up a couple of unsuspecting motorcyclists in the south (Surat Thani) when the assessor and a local policeman were there to make sure I wasn’t lynched. Oh, back to the advice, if you don’t get a red book, make sure you hoof it down to the LTO ASAP, register a plate number and then tell the sales person about it. You’ll get the plates quick and you’ll be out of a “strife” window.

Stickman's thoughts:

This is scary…