Know Your Rights if a Policeman Stops you in Bangkok

December 27, 2014
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Over the last month or so there have been many negative reports in the media about police in Bangkok giving foreigners the shakedown. The story goes that the cops demand to see your passport or insist that you do a urine test beside the road. Failure to do so would lead to a “fine” of 5,000 Baht or a night in the local lock-up. Due to international coverage and pressure on social media, police authorities have come out to say that there is no campaign to target foreigners. Thonglor Police Station have gone one step further by distributing a leaflet making it clear what your rights are. Here is what they say:

Thonglor Police Station notice about searching foreigners for contraband

1. Searching foreigners
1.1 Foreigners may take photos of police officers who do the search before searching begins
1.2 Searching has to be done in a place with sufficient lighting and not be desolated
1.3 Do not pay any amount of money to police officers whether you are asked to do or not
1.4 In case you are in a vehicle or a taxi, police officers who stop a vehicle and do the search must be in a proper checkpoint, under control of a commissioned officer

2. Collecting urine specimen must be done only in the police station

3. Foreigners could carry a copy of first page and entry stamped page of their passport instead of the original one.

If you experience any problems, you can call the tourist police on 1155, 24 hours a day. You can also call any of the following police stations in Bangkok:

Thonglor Police Station: 02-3818853
Klongton Police Station: 02-3140041
Lumpini Police Station: 02-2555993
Bangrak Police Station: 02-2340242
Makkasan Police Station: 02-3181821

37 Responses to Know Your Rights if a Policeman Stops you in Bangkok

  1. Galen Bellile
    December 27, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    Excellent helpful information and service Mr. Richard Barrow.
    Thank you very much! Galen B.

  2. Baht
    December 27, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    Thanks Richard, but I would be a little reticent to argue with an officer who broke one of these rules.

    If there was a copy of these rules, in Thai and signed by the appropriate authority, e.g. the chief of Thonglor Police Station, I would be happy to keep a copy on my person.

  3. matt owens rees
    December 27, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    Good point Baht. A Thai copy would be an admirable suggestion. It’s naive to talk of arguing with a police officer’ You’re being very generous stating “a little reticent”

    • Richard Barrow
      December 28, 2014 at 6:26 pm

      Never argue with anyone in uniform. Be polite at all times. Even more so if he has a gun.

  4. Mike Kenny
    December 27, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    What about the rest of the country? Are there different rules?

  5. Stanley Tai
    December 27, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    I see policemen harassing foreigners in Kuala Lumpur everywhere everyday. They are not so lucky. No advice from anyone to their rights.

  6. Big Al
    December 28, 2014 at 12:27 am

    Take a urine sample? Is that implying that you are the driver being pulled over?

  7. Joe Cummings
    December 28, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Thonglor police have violated these rights quite routinely, targeting foreigners, over the last two years. Many have tried to press these rights during illegal searches and illegal urine tests, with little success.

  8. Sakon
    December 28, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    “Foreigners could carry a copy of first page and entry stamped page of their passport instead of the original one.”

    Does this mean “must carry at least”? Always been a bit hazy on these rules, especially in the case of long-term expats who might not want to tote around documentation while doing errands. Thanks for the informative post.

    • Richard Barrow
      December 28, 2014 at 6:30 pm

      By law everyone should have photo ID with them at all times. For foreigners, this usually means a passport. For myself I have my Thai driver’s license which has been accepted as ID at domestic airports, hotels and army checkpoints near the border. I’ve never been asked for my passport. I do have a laminated copy in my passport and camera bag which I shrank down to credit card size with a photocopier. It would seem that most policemen will accept a photocopy copy of your passport as valid ID. I did once see a foreign couple board a domestic flight by only showing a photocopy of their passport. For myself, if I go away for an overnight trip I always take my passport. But in Bangkok I am presuming my driver’s license or copy of passport would suffice.

      • Tony Wilson
        December 29, 2014 at 1:42 pm

        Yes, don’t argue but I find that acting the (polite) dummy works and never admit to speaking Thai! They tend to get a little exasperated and wave me on!

      • davewaikiki
        February 11, 2015 at 4:19 pm

        Sawasdee Richard. As of today Feb 10, is this still happening in Bangkok? I am a 65 year old American Male and planning on visiting Bangkok this summer? I do not do drugs, always carry a passport copy with me, and really like to explore on my own. But will I be harassed ? Please give me an updatable response

        Thanx, DaveWaikiki. Honolulu, Hawaii. USA

        • Richard Barrow
          February 11, 2015 at 6:26 pm

          Social media has gone all quiet on this the last few months. Just the usual checkpoints that any city around the world would have.

          • matt owens rees
            February 12, 2015 at 1:08 am

            Checkpoints have increased under the military government but I don’t think harassment is a problem for tourists coming here.

          • Richard Barrow
            February 12, 2015 at 6:33 am

            I drive a lot and I cannot say I’ve noticed an increase in police checkpoints. I’ve never been hassled. Looking at the bigger picture, it is probably a good idea to have these checkpoints if it keeps off the road drunk drivers and those people driving without a license or insurance. If you haven’t done anything wrong then you shouldn’t need to be worried. A friend of mine was complaining a couple of days ago about being caught at a police checkpoint. But, he was over the limit for drinking and therefore breaking the law. They had every right to fine him.

          • matt owens rees
            February 12, 2015 at 8:07 am

            The principal reason for Checkpoints in Thailand is not to catch drunk drivers, it is to apprehend illegals and, under this government, those wanted for other reasons. I travel extensively too and on the BKK Chiangmai route, as everyone on that route knows, there is an increased military/police presence. Also elsewhere in Thailand.

            But to reiterate: I see no reason for alarm for tourists or expats. But the reality must not be shielded from farangs.

          • Richard Barrow
            February 12, 2015 at 12:15 pm

            For sure, checkpoints on roads that lead to and from land borders are set up to catch smugglers and illegals. This blog is about Bangkok where they are mainly looking for people breaking road laws. But I agree with you that there is no reason to cancel holidays. Just pack common sense when you come here and act within the law.

  9. Tony Wilson
    December 29, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    The ID and domestic flights comments remind me. I haven’t done it yet but I’m thinking of flying BKK to Khon Kaen. What ID is my (born in Thailand and half Thai) daughter expected to show? She is only 4 and therefore has no Thai ID card and she has no passport of course.

    • Johan
      January 2, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      My son (6 yrs, born in Thailand as well) is using whatever credit card sized card with his picture and name on it. The easiest one is a library card (such as TK Park in Siam World Centre (150THB production fee), or a student card.. Otherwise a copy of the birth certificate can be used as well…

      • Tony Wilson
        January 2, 2015 at 11:57 pm

        Many thanks. A copy of the birth certificate sounds the best option.

  10. Thibaud
    December 29, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    A few weeks ago I had to help a friend who was detained at Klong Tan police station. His fault : not having his passport or any copy of it with him, and asking the policemen who he was – because he was not wearing the proper uniform.
    I thought it was abusive, as he had all kind of documents with him (registration as a resident in Thailand, work certificate, etc.). We both had forgotten we are still under martial law… and that a passport copy is still required at all times.
    Finally I had to go to the police station where he was literally jailed. I had to ask the guard to let me see my friend in jail, get his keys, go to his apartment, get his original passport in his flat in Thong Lor area, then go back there, pay a 100 THB fine for not having passport… Kafka would have been happy and we had quite a lot of fun indeed.
    I joked a bit with the officers and asked if they could get me a knive, so I could cut his finger and enter his condo… but they were not really friendly. They had to sign a paper I could show to the guard at the entrance of his condo.
    What a waste of time… I cannot say I kept a lot of admiration for police in Bangkok from this event.

    • Richard Barrow
      December 30, 2014 at 12:09 am

      Thanks for letting us know. It shows you at least the importance of some photo ID. Thais have to carry them and it makes sense for foreigners to do so too. I shrank a copy of my passport to credit card size and laminated it. It is in my wallet all the time just in case. If I go up country I take my passport with me but leave it in the hotel. In Bangkok there is no need as I can always return to my home if the police insist on seeing the original. Interesting to know the fine is only 100 Baht.

      • Chris
        January 13, 2015 at 9:21 am

        Richard, is the credit card sized copy just of the photo page of your passport?

        • Richard Barrow
          January 13, 2015 at 12:47 pm

          No, photo page on one side and visa on the other. As long as you are not too far from your original passport (say and hour or so) then this is fine. They are in their right to demand to see original if their are suspicious of you. But for most police, a photocopy is fine as a photo id.

          • Chris
            January 14, 2015 at 12:51 pm

            Thanks Richard. It’s a great idea. I intend to do the same.

  11. G.
    December 30, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Police officers have the rights to request to see your passport, failure to present the requested document may result as a fine of 1,000 Baht.   The type of identification required may vary depending on the officer, some may accept a Thai Driver’s License while another may accept a photocopy of the ID and visa pages of your passport. Some could insist on seeing the original passport.   This may involve some negotiation with the officer, that you need to return to hotel to collect your passport and show it to him.
    Officers are being more watchful to ensure that there are not people overstaying their visas.

    The relevant act is the Alien Registration Act B.E. 2493 (1950 A.D.)  Section 17 and Section 22 (3) . The Act does not specifically state that it must be presented to an official within 24 hours but in practice we have heard of the police allowing the foreigner to send a friend to their house or accommodation to get their passport, sometimes the official has gone back to their home or hotel to collect the passport. However, if they require your passport.

  12. johnny j.
    January 5, 2015 at 1:15 am

    what is the name of the head of the Thonglor PD?, I’ll get it translated, and stop by and ask if he doesn’t mind signing a copy, and post it back online.

    • matt owens rees
      January 5, 2015 at 9:34 am

      Thais would see that as provocation from a farang. Better to follow RB’s advice and play it cool. IMO

      • j
        January 7, 2015 at 12:02 pm

        funny, even the mention of the PD captain’s name is probably too scary to do. PD dept’s like NYC’s right now, seem to be a law unto themselves, esp. in LOS, one imagines. was a hypothetical joke you see.

  13. Rindom
    January 6, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    Does this happens daily in. BKK or all around in Thailand

    • Richard Barrow
      January 7, 2015 at 6:32 am

      I’ve never seen it even though I went looking for this. I have been living here for more than 20 years. Yes, it does happen but not as often as some people are saying. And anyway, we are under martial law in Thailand at the moment. If you come here you need to understand that.

      • Joachim Reissner
        January 9, 2015 at 3:25 am

        I was 5 Months in the Prison in BKK only about Visa Overstay about more Details and Pictures Contact me

        • Richard Barrow
          January 9, 2015 at 6:50 am

          I presume you mean Immigration Detention Center (which many says is worse than prison). And I presume you were detained as you weren’t able to pay the fine and/or buy the plane ticket home straight away?

          • bona
            January 16, 2015 at 7:59 am

            Dear Richard, please I want to know if it’s possible to extend 12 months overstay non b visa in Thailand if he pay the overstay fine. and can one cross to Cambodia via land border if he can pay his overstay fine at the border?

        • matt owens rees
          January 9, 2015 at 9:37 am

          I sympathise and 5 months seems excessive but it has nothing to do with a farang’s rights when police arrest a person.

          It does not compare with western rules and laws but Thailand is a sovereign country. RB is merely pointing out how rights work here.

  14. expat
    February 4, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    A driver’s license has always gotten me by, but I’ve never had a cop try to extort money from me either. Would that suffice?

  15. daniele
    June 25, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    Ciao Robert, you are talking about driving checkpoints right? If i m gonna walking Can I be involved in this kind of situation? Thank you

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