Stickman Readers' Submissions December 25th, 2012

The Cigarette Police

It finally happened, I had a run in with the infamous ciggy cops while walking with my Thai girlfriend and a farang friend outside Emporium. Thankfully I'm a long time reader of yours… Here's the story.

I had just bought a pack of smokes on Suhkumvit soi 26 and wanted to show my friend the Villa supermarket (groceries for farangs) across the road from Emporium mall. I decided to take the walkover that is directly in front of the entrance to the park and noticed an official looking guard dressed in a brown uniform standing there.

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Well, as I rounded the corner to the stairs up, I dropped my cigarette butt there (yes, I know it is not cool to litter) because there are no ashtrays or signs saying no smoking either. I also kept my eye on the man in the general uniform and as soon as he saw my empty hand, he started to move. Okay, I'm busted, he knows this game better than me and was just pretending to be the guard to the entrance of the park. I knew he was following me, but I said nothing to my friends because I thought he might just walk away. However, as we were about half way up the stairs to the BTS he said something in Thai and my girlfriend told me it was the police and he wanted us to walk with him. At this moment I remembered the scam, but I didn't want to upset my girlfriend and try to explain it to her in a sentence or two because he was wearing an official looking uniform and she won't believe me, so I decided to play this out.

The first thing he did was ask me which country I was from. I said nothing, instead I asked him if he was an official Bangkok police officer, because he wasn't wearing a gun. When he didn't question me further about which country I was from or to see my identification, I knew this was a scam, because a real police officer would not let me talk over him. I then asked my girlfriend if he was a real police officer and she said yes. I wasn't buying it though, but decided to walk the 100 meters to their official looking booth.

Once there I asked them if they are real police and asked to talk to the tourist police instead. They were not interested in talking to me at this point and proceeded to try to scare my girlfriend into convincing me to pay 2000 baht on the spot or else I would have to go to the police station with them and pay much more. My girlfriend did her best to apologize to them and explain it wouldn't happen again and that it was my last day in Bangkok. They would have nothing to do with it. Then I asked if I could pay less money then the 2000 baht. They said no, it's the same price for everyone. I then said that I need to talk to the tourist police before I pay 1 baht. Again they addressed my girlfriend and ignored me. I was using words like this is a scam, this is not real police.

Then I looked at my farang friend and said, forget this, and proceeded to walk away. I figured if this was real, I was about to find out very fast, but I took the chance because the worst that would happen is that I would have to pay 2000 baht. The man in the uniform didn't bother to follow. Instead he got on his radio, as if talking to some official ahead at the skytrain.

Moral of this story. It's not cool to smoke, and even less so to litter. However if you do happen to come across these extortionists on Suhkumvit, I would say, unless they are carrying guns or weapons, you can just walk away.

What I can't understand is how this obvious scam can still be going on and what is the official position of the Bangkok police when it comes to throwing litter or cigarette butts on the streets. I haven't been able to get a straight answer from any source. Hoping you can pass this along to your readers and maybe get to the bottom of it. Cheers for another good year. JC .


Stickman's thoughts:

Interesting story, particularly the way you were able to just walk away. To straighten out a few points, it seems I need to play translator here – and shame on your "girlfriend" for not knowing better!

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First of all, these guys are NOT policemen. They do not have the power to arrest you, detail you or even put a finger on you. They are called "Tessakit" in Thai which translates as something like City Hall Officers or Municipal District Officers. They are official government employees! The fine is NOT a scam, although the way they seem to target foreigners and not stop Thais is of course questionable.

That you managed to just walk away from the situation is interesting. I don't know what powers they have in a situation like that.

I would never litter in my own country, in Thailand or anywhere else and while there should be more garbage cans around, I don't think it's onerous to carry your rubbish until you come across somewhere to dispose of your waste thoughtfully.

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