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  1. #1
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    Bangkok's "Litter Police"

    Bangkok's 'cigarette police'

    Littering is against the law and offenders should be punished, but some say the capital city's inspectors are perhaps a little too vigilant!

    Published: 29/08/2010 at 05:06 AM
    Newspaper section: Spectrum

    Many foreign tourists in Bangkok have complained they have been "burned" after being fined for littering by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's (BMA) inspectors. An investigation by a Spectrum team lasting several weeks has revealed that foreign tourists appear to be the targets of the city's uniformed inspectors.

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    CAUGHT SMOKING: A French couple line up at a BMA booth to pay a fine for littering.

    Commonly known as the "cigarette police", the BMA's inspectors, known in Thai as thetsakij, appear to ignore most of the city's litterbugs _ a look down any of Bangkok's main roads will reveal piles of garbage _ and only catch foreign tourists who drop cigarette butts.

    Even the Spectrum team was harassed by the thetsakij as they gathered evidence and conducted interviews with people who had been caught and fined for littering.

    In fact, the author if this story had a brush with the thetsakij outside Benjasiri Park _ one of the many downtown areas they operate in _ which could only be described as an act of intimidation and harassment (see sidebar story).

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    FRIGHTENED: Two German women pay their fine on the skywalk outside the MBK building.

    Dropping a cigarette butt, a bus ticket or anything else on a public street is certainly illegal, but it is not a serious crime. But to police this relatively small crime, the BMA has assigned dozens of uniformed officials to enforce the littering law, especially in the central parts of Bangkok frequented by foreign tourists.

    What the Spectrum team witnessed during their investigation appeared to be more of a money-making enterprise than law enforcement. It should also be pointed out that the Spectrum team didn't see a single Thai person being apprehended for littering, only foreigners.

    More: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/inve...garette-police
    Last edited by Khun Don; 29-08-10 at 04:54 PM. Reason: High-lighted another sentence

  2. #2
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    Re: Bangkok's "Litter Police"

    I'm not surprised by this. Tourists who cannot speak Thai are easy targets.

    Just another racket, alongside the double pricing and airport "shoplifting" schemes.
    Perhaps T.A.T. stands for Take All (you can from) Tourists.
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  3. #3
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    Re: Bangkok's "Litter Police"

    Although it is the farangs who are targeted in the main shopping streets as a source of easy money, this is not so out in the suburbs. The Thetsakit are widely hated in Bangkok. They are a law unto themselves. They make fresh market vendors and street vendor's lives a misery harassing them and extorting money from them for minor infractions.

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    Re: Bangkok's "Litter Police"

    They make fresh market vendors and street vendor's lives a misery harassing them and extorting money from them for minor infractions.
    Unfortunately, street vending is illegal in Bangkok. Operating a cart, in and of itself, is an infraction. The vendors are only being allowed to operate after paying a "fine".

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    Re: Bangkok's "Litter Police"

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerome View Post
    Perhaps T.A.T. stands for Take All (you can from) Tourists.


    Certainly TAT seems to have ignored all rip-off complaints from tourists for years-disgusting for a government body!

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    Re: Bangkok's "Litter Police"

    This actually has been going on for years already. I remember more than 10 years ago, one of my Singaporean army friends who was doing a tour in Thailand was doing some R&R in Bangkok. He claimed he "dropped" a ticket or something and was immediately approached by some "police" to demand a fine. Regardless how he tried to explain himself, the police demanded a "fine on the spot" but was able to give him a "discount". In the end, he produced his army ID card and was let off the spot because they thought he was some VIP working in the embassy.

    Hot shot Thai normally just say "Don't you know my father/mother?", and they will be let off with apologists.
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    Re: Bangkok's "Litter Police"

    If I remember correctly, they were onto jaywalkers many years back also. They caught some Thais jaywalking and because they were not able to pay the fine, they were made to do pushups on the street. I think it was right in front of MBK as well. True story!
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    Re: Bangkok's "Litter Police"

    Here are some letters from the Bangkok Post this morning:

    Lighting a fire

    Well done ''Spectrum'' (Aug 29) for exposing the uniformed cigarette-butt extortionists otherwise known as thesakij. I had a letter on this subject published in Postbag almost five years ago (Sept 16, 2005) and nothing whatsoever has changed.

    Perhaps the esteemed governor of Bangkok, who oversees the BMA employing these wretched people, will finally do something about those perpetrating this old scam which does nothing for the image of Thailand and its majority of honest and friendly people.

    MARTIN R

    A fair day's pay

    ''Spectrum's'' article about the cigarette police was very interesting. I know several people who have been victimised by these bottom feeders masquerading as civil servants. The average amount extorted per victim seems to be 2,000 baht. Not bad for 5-10 minutes work.

    The story did not explore the economics involved with this con game so consider these numbers. Assume 2,000 baht per alleged transgressor times 5 fines per day, times 20 working days per month. That equals a potential for an income of 200,000 baht per month for one thesakij.

    With few if any receipts being issued, where do you think most if not all the money goes?

    Nice work if you can get it.

    NHS

    Non-smoker's paradise

    I was walking to a meeting towards the Landmark Hotel when I was accosted by a police officer, who accused me of dropping litter on the street and ordered me to pay an on-the-spot fine of 2,000 baht.

    When I protested that this was not the case, he escorted me back to the booth to meet his superior officer, who also claimed he had seen me commit the crime and also asked for the money. I asked what it was I had dropped and he pointed to a jar of cigarette ends.

    I asked the superior to confirm twice that the two of them had actually seen me drop a cigarette end and that they wanted me to pay a fine. He did so. I then told him in my basic Thai: Sam sip pi, mai buri! _ or roughly: I haven't smoked for 30 years. This stopped them in their tracks, but what was most offensive is that they tried to make up, laugh it off and shake my hand to show all was forgiven. I refused. It was nothing short of institutional mugging.

    Incidentally, I was dressed quite touristy as I was going to play golf after my meeting, so I must have looked fair game.

    COLIN AIRDRIE

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    Re: Bangkok's "Litter Police"

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Barrow View Post
    Here are some letters from the Bangkok Post this morning:
    These letter-writers show a complete lack of clue. Certainly no one deserves to be unfairly singled out, but as Surawat's excellent comment shows, portraying these guys as an anti-foreigner force completely missed the mark. Do any of these writers know or care what the เทศกิจ is or does, especially when it comes to Thai people who have problems?

    Shame on these expats. If foreigners didn't regularly throw their cigarette butts on the streets, there would be far less justification for this (admittedly unfair) enforcement. The idea that unethical behavior should be excused because locals get away with it is horrible.

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