Are the Police in Thailand Your Friend or Foe?

You want to know if Thai police are safe, and how to approach them. You also want to know if it's true you can bribe your way out of anything, right? Read these tips for staying on the right side of law enforcement.

If you’re genuinely innocent and need their assistance you’ll find Thai police polite, professional and efficient. Still, they’re serious guys with a tough job. So don't mess with them. But to make the most of your trip to Thailand you'll need to know about:

Tips for Dealing With Police in Thailand

  • Be courteous and act reasonably at all times.
  • Don’t raise your voice, or make demands and threats.
  • If you’re in the wrong expect little mercy and be prepared to pay an on-the-spot fine.
  • If you’re in a dispute with a Thai it’s more than likely they’ll side with the local not you, even if you’re not at fault. Just accept this.
  • Don’t smile or talk to a police officer unless he talks to you first.
  • Don’t be a dumb farang and draw attention to yourself by being drunk or loud.

Of course you wouldn't need these tips if you could keep yourself out of trouble, so check out our guide to Thai laws you must know.

Types of Police in Thailand

Civil Police

Police are paid poorly, about 6000 baht a month! They rely on the “support of their communities” to make the wage livable – which means payments from the gold shops they protect, fines they issue, and commissions from brothels.

A generous interpretation of this is that police provide service without favour, and in return the locals treat them with the honour and respect their status deserves. So you should do the same. 

Tourist Police

Not actually sworn law enforcement officers but they do ‘police’ the tourist industry. They’re mostly volunteers, a mix of Thai locals and ex-pats. They speak good English and they’re really helpful. They can act as intermediaries and translators when you’re dealing with the real police, or with scammers.

The number all over Thailand is 1155.

Corruption in Thailand

Thailand ranks 88th out of 176 on an international corruption indicator, scoring 37 points out of 100. For comparison, Denmark topped the index (least corrupt) with a score of 90, the UK was 17th with a score of 74. So 88th is a long way down, meaning it’s pretty corrupt.

At the top echelons there are reports of multi-million baht kickbacks to government officials. But as a tourist the officialdom you’re most likely to encounter are police and low-level public service clerks.

World Nomads Guide to Bribing Thai Officials

It is illegal to offer a bribe, just like prostitution is illegal. Ok stop laughing now. We cannot condone or endorse illegal behaviour. Plus, by taking part in the charade you're perpetuating the cycle - and probably driving up the price too!

But we've heard from those naughty people who have no problems with illegally bribing a police officer that they have more success if they're a little subtle with the bribe. They don’t call it a bribe, they ask if there’s a "special fee" to speed up the process, or if they can pay the fine "on-the-spot", or if they can “help” the official in some way.

Although illegal, bribery is pretty common, and the locals admit they rationalise it by thinking about it as paying honour and respect to the status of the person who’s working hard to make their day go a little more smoothly. Need a stamp in your passport, but it’s going to take a couple of days? You’ll be amazed at the time-travel properties of 100 baht! or so we are told.

Bribing Police - When and How Much?

It's common knowledge that the going rate for a bribe - sorry we mean an expression of honour and respect - is about the same as the fine would be, minus a discount for saving the officer from the paperwork. Most traffic infringements are between 200 and 500 baht ($6 - $16). “No thanks, no receipt required officer.”

The alternative, legal thing to do, is to accept the ticket, take a trip to the police station while it’s processed, spend a few hours there, jump through several annoying bureaucratic hoops and STILL pay 200 to 500 baht. But at least you've done the right thing!

One of the most common police "fines" comes about after a license check. So what is the story with motorcycle licenses in Thailand?

Police are paid monthly, so it can be common to see them on the streets at the end of the month looking for ways to issue on-the-spot fines to tide them over till pay day.

If you’re spotted coming out of a nightclub you could be stopped and searched for drugs. Police are hoping to find an excuse to be paid enormous amounts of honour and respect. Don’t get upset, cooperate, if you have nothing to fear the process will be conducted with smiles all around.

18 Comments

  • Jai said

    How do the tourist police make their money?

    Is it also off honour and respect?

  • Jai said

    Also, will they ever ask you for 'on the spot fines'?

  • marmot said

    My wife is an educated Thai, and I've lived in Thailand for nearly 4 years, including traveling to many areas all over the country. I've called the Tourist Police on 2 occasions, both regarding an obvious rip off from local Thais in the northern area of the country. Both times these Tourist Police sided with the Thai, regardless of paperwork showing that the Thai was in the wrong. In fact, the Thai business man said that he would kill my wife. The 2 Tourist Police ignored the death threat, but told me that if I cursed again, I had said in a calm and quiet voice that the Thai business person could go to hell, they would arrest and incarcerate me. Apparently, threatening to kill someone is OK, but if you calmly and quietly curse, you may be jailed.
    A high percentage of Thais are wonderful, great folks, but don't believe for a second that you, as a farang, will be treated fairly by all of them. I later spoke with a friend who is an American attorney who practices immigration law in Bangkok, and a quick call to an acquaintance of his told him that the Tourist Police were completely wrong, and the Thai should have been arrested, not me. I'm retired from U.S. Federal law enforcement, and despite this article implying that Tourist Police are not sworn officers, most that I've seen carry a handgun, and certainly will "say" that they have full arrest authority. Regardless, as in any third world country, and I've spent over 4 years in 21 third world nations, know beforehand that you will probably be judged as in the wrong.

  • Buckrogers said

    To correct your your abovementioned statement above, the Tourist Police in Thailand is a police unit at a division level under the command of the Central Investigation Bureau.

    They consists of English speaking members of the Thai Police.

  • Luke said

    June 6, 2015

    In 2004 I had moved to Pattaya, Thailand and I had owned a legitimate fashion model and film casting company in Bangkok and I had a Thai lady who worked for me as the director of my company. This lady was incredibly honest and helpful, she was a famous Thai actress at that time.

    Unfortunately my Thai girlfriend of four years did not have the same integrity as the employee of my corporation. She had an affair with my best friend of 17 years and he convinced her to steal money from me so that he could stay in Thailand longer off of my hard earnings.
    When I became wise to the affair, my Thai girlfriend decided it was time to drug me with what many of the Thai hookers drug their customers with; Flunitrazepam, also known as Rohypnol an anesthesia administered to patients prior to having surgery. There is a blocker that these women take most likely in pill form prior to coming in contact with the drug, which gives them an immunity to the drugs affects.

    My ex would place it in baby-oil and then give me a rub down in an intimate place and the drug seeped through the pours of my skin and immediately I was rendered unconscious. I lost track of time and my memory was erased. I slurred my speech and I could not move my muscles.

    There was also another drug that she somehow managed to get into my system that must have been Window Pane or LSD that would cause you to hallucinate and have a bad trip, only since I did not know that I had a hallucinogen in my system, I had no idea that I was hallucinating, so to me the hallucinations were real.

    I went to the police and they didn’t do anything about it, so I remembered an extremely scary and evil federal agent of the Thai Crime Suppression Unit in Pattaya, his nick name is ‘Yak.’ This frightening federal agent told my girlfriend that he would put her into "Lard Yao women's Prison.” Apparently she was high on Yaba which is Thai for Crazy Medicine. He told her that unless she had sex with him and the remainder of the “Thai Crime Suppression Agents,” that she was going to be locked up.

    My girlfriend agreed to have sex with him and the other corrupt agents, as long as he protected her from the possibility of me taking revenge on her. She also wanted her lover, my former best friend to be let go as well because she was in lust with him.

    So the Thai Crime Suppression Agents tried to frame me as a Yaba Drug Trafficker and they planted the drug in my hotel room and I never entered into the room because what these corrupt federal agents didn’t know was that I had intelligence contacts in Bangkok. A Non-Official-Cover (NOC) Operative for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) befriended me some years prior in Bangkok when I had some trouble with a bad Australian man who was a go-go bar owner.

    The (NOC) Agent told me about how the Crime Suppression Agents where Thailand’s version of our own FBI or CIA. Killer Feds would to be more accurate. These ghostlike agents lived on the fear of the Thai people and the foreigners they seek to extort and murder just because they can. They are the untouchable cops, it’s not the guys in the uniforms that you have to worry about! It’s these people that are never mentioned.

    Just like you never hear about America’s most secretive Special Forces Unit. The CIA’s ‘Special Activities Division’ (SAD), within the SAD is the “Special Operations Group” (SOG), these guys are former Seal Team 6, Marine Force Recon & Delta. These guys are all unregistered so that the US can deny any accountability if they should get caught behind enemy lines in a country that the US does not want them knowing we are performing clandestine operations in. We also have another unit known as the Political Action Group (PAG) within the CIA (SAD). These people influence the politics in foreign countries to be beneficial to the US.

    The Thai people that do know about the Crime Suppression Agents, deny knowing anything about them because they know that these guys are the real mafia inside of Thailand. They know that these guys are killers and it’s not only the guys, it’s also the sociopath women they have working for this organization. However, most Thai people do not even know this branch of the police exists.

    Lately you hear all of this talk about corrupt Thai cops with uniforms, why don’t we ever hear about the corrupt Thai feds? The Thai Crime Suppression Unit makes the ‘Gambino Crime Family’ in New York look like the ‘Boy Scouts of America!’

    Needless to say, these feds tried to have me assassinated but my Bro Cole helped me escape Thailand in 2005. I am posting this article mostly for him, because many years later he ran into a similar problem with the corruption over there and they murdered his wife and he barely escaped from Thailand.

    Unfortunately, Bro Cole and I went over to Thailand one way and we came back so traumatized that we didn’t even recognize ourselves in the mirror. My nightmare only ended 6 years later when I begged God for mercy because I was having horrendous flashbacks that wouldn’t end. I had an amazing experience with Jesus Christ on December 17, 2011 and Jesus began a good work in me and healed me then and also improving my trauma issues over the years, thank you Jesus Christ for being so merciful.

    I am sad, not for myself, I am sad because one of the kindest, most gentle and caring souls that I have ever known, my bro Cole is suffering like I once was. He has not been back in the US all that long and when I listen to him over the phone it’s like listening to myself all over again prior to receiving Jesus into my heart and life.

    This article is dedicated to the many lost souls who think that Pattaya, Thailand is the greatest place on the planet, not knowing it is one of the greatest traps ever set for men. I specifically dedicate this article to my Bro Cole and his murdered Thai wife and his son who is also still very traumatized.

    Your brother Luke!

  • Lindsay said

    Just read today that Bangkok cops will receive the reward for catching the latest bomber. In many parts of the world that's considered unethical. Talk about conflicting interests.

  • H8thai said

    People, don't spend your money in thailand. do it in other Asian countries instead.

  • Mish said

    Is there a place, telephone number or website to report corruption in Bangkok?

  • Edog said

    Phuket
    Patong to Kalama on motorcycle

    I finished a late night date for my friend got off work at 10pm
    I had 1 beer at dinner
    Riding back to the hotel on a stretch of road between they put a road block up..they were in the process of putting the cones down, no lights as of yet, so I go through, only to be pulled over a mile down the road and drug searched and then given a breath test.

    They held me for 2 hours plus telling me I drink and drive. Fine 10 to 20,000 baht and jail tonight, go in front of Judge tomorrow

    Finally I was offered to pay fine 10,000 baht
    they would not take less.

    I will not be going back to Thailand for I love riding motorcycle and that was just a trap, and that ruined my whole Thailand experiences that I had for years and years

  • Aviat said

    Thailand has changed. It's not the same country like 10 years ago. Thai become nazis. I was planing to live here. Now NO!NO! NEVER! They hate farangs. Try to open bank account for instance. They have pleasure to refuse. Don't spend your time and money. Not worth enymore...

  • John said

    You may recently have seen the story of the Swiss guy who lost 10,000 Swiss francs on his way to sort out his wedding to his thai lady.
    About 350,000 baht.
    After it was found.
    (It was seen to be dropped as he got from the taxi)
    The two young bike taxis riders picked it up.
    Not quite sure what to do with Swiss franks.
    Spoke to the mother allegedly, who say it's the right thing to do business handing it in.
    They contacted the local tourist radio station. And they put the message out, if anyone had lost this money..
    (They had been seen going into the Swiss embassy, after being seen dropping the money getting fromy the taxi too)

    Not to get in the way of a good story.
    We all saw the circus act put on tv about it all.

    The money was returned.
    Less 10,000 baht reward to each of the bike taxi riders.
    Less 5,000 baht to the mother of the boys for raising them so well.
    Less 10,000 baht to each of the community radio jocks, who reported the story on community news.
    Not finished yet..
    Later that evening a visit from the boys in the dark uniforms suggesting that the two officers involved, should be compensated too.
    10,000 baht each was a nice round figure.

    So yes he got the money back, and what great PR for Thai tourism and the people in Bangkok. And the police force.

    290,000 baht I suppose is better than nothing...

  • John said

    Try this one and judge for yourself...

    It’s a fact of life here.
    Nothing the government says in it recent press is going to change the #27 in the world rating. Corrupt countries rating.

    I have just sat here and watched the bike taxi s cough up to The bike police officer and have it ticked off in the book.
    No fine fee. They call it.

    The other day I see a large rotund officer walk into a gold shop, 20 seconds later he has a hand full of 100 baht notes.
    They don't hide it. Extra protection..
    No help was not selling his gold chain.

    As said previously, it's like a public contribution to the boys, for doing a job they get paid to do.
    And it appears buy Thier own handguns, and bullets.

    Although the government has introduced an 18,000 baht weapon of choice purchase scheme, at low interest.

    I cannot see them getting only 6,000 baht a month.

    My friend gets 9,000 and days off, and paid overtime, working cashier in a food shop.

    The other night I sat on Beach Road and saw the local constabulary at work. Enforcing the law. (Month end pay days loans, top ups, haha)
    Sorry, it is serious.

    100 bikes pulled over.
    93 Farang. Seven Thai.
    Seventy nine Farang booking.
    Not one Thai.
    Including the one with four on a bike and no helmet.
    Rental bikes are prime targets.

    Thai bikes with a mobile shop attached, and no lights, a charcoal fire burning, and gas bottle to boot, no licence, no food selling licence.
    They seem to get away Scott free.

    Let's face it.. they will never have the cash to pay a fine anyway.

    The Farangs.
    Not one received a recipt.

    The two officers were scribbling on the back of a folded newspaper.

    No receipt see boss.
    500 baht a pop.

    Not bad for two hours work.

    Several friends have bars here and they still contribute 2500 every month to the black book.

    A well touted story around town is..
    The number one job here.
    Chief of the police.

    They actually pay 10 million baht for the position.
    To be number one and reap all the dividends that goes with it..
    I have no reason to doubt it..

    Who ya going to call?

    They even have I.T. guys trace internet stuff,
    Freelance cash payment.
    Try using a vpn on the pc, and see how much more you can access.
    The Thai xxxx block or blacklist thousands of sites.
    This is the message that you get, saying slow connection, or site not found.
    It's actually blocked same as they do in China.

    I've had almost 10 years working and playing here.
    But it's getting to be a sad place.
    Monks and beggars in Bangkok who give to the police around Asoke and Nana.
    Special operatives who have the right to remove and detain you in and around Sukhumvit .
    The bar sellers who sell you the gear (viagra/kamagra) and ten seconds later the plain wrappers pull you.
    Buying prescription drugs without a doctor authority.

    It is happening guys...

    My lady 3.5 years, say she see nothing wrong with take money from farangs.
    Can do. She say.
    Farang have job and money, thai not have much.
    So ok to do.. if want to do.
    Not satisfied with about one million baht over the years, new house, family taken care of. Sons wedding paid for.
    Loans to brothers wife, we never get back.
    Now she works a good job, but still wants me to pay for just about everything. And give her family.
    And she gives hers to a lazy son and he wife.

    We have all done it.. and meanwhile we have the rubbery police to deal with as well.

    It makes your goolies shrink to the size of raisins.
    How the minds work..

    Maybe time to reassess my situation. LOL.

  • Elliot said

    I lived in Bangkok 3 years with almost no trouble. The police were helpful and polite as long as I was polite and respectful. I lived at Sukhumvit Soi 3, right downtown.

    I was once pulled over in a taxi and fined for not wearing my seatbelt. There was no seatbelt in the back seat. Instead of getting angry and aggressive, I smiled and asked how much the fine was. He said 300 baht if I went through the court, 500 on the spot. I gladly paid the fine without complaining and relished in the fact that I was paying $3CAD for the taxi ride and $1.50 CAD for a beer.

    Point: don't argue and cause a scene over a few dollars.

  • Julien-binard daniel said

    un agent de la police thaï de l,immigration ma demande 50000 bath pour annule mon nom de la blacklist de la police de l,immigration de bangkok ((depuis 15 ans) pour un délit mineur (condamne a 2500 baths d,amende) a l,époque!!!!
    J,ai refusé naturellement j,habite au laos depuis 15 ans .je suis chef de cuisine français ex exécutif chef a l,hotel NOVOTEL de Vientiane,actuellement consultant
    Pour restaurant français à Vientiane.je n,ai aucune confiance a la police thaï.

    Julien- binard daniel. Mes salutations

  • P M Miller said

    I was recently in Phuket I got 1000 Baht fine because I was parked next to a zebra crossing they had chained my scooter to the bike next to me I had no choice but to pay it, every night the drive home from Patong to Karen the police would be pulling all the tourists over (having been to Bali before I was already prepared for this kind of thing) so I had my international driving licence and helmet on and I didn't get fined, the next 3 nights I got pulled over I let the police officers know I was not happy about getting pulled over every night and they let me go quickly. I think as long as you make sure you are legal then you give them no opertunaty to fine you, wear your helmets have your license etc ...

  • J2 said

    Thailand has changed indeed, the Thailand I once loved, has died along with the great King.

    I was held at the airport immigration because I overstayed a couple of days after losing some cash when I was staying in a dorm. I explained to the customs officer that I understood my mistake and apologized profusely with the 'wai' high above my head as if I were praying to them. I even asked if I could scrape by some cash by selling away my laptop.

    They started conversing in Thai, making jokes about throwing me into jail, insulting my country and even loudly proclaiming that I was in Thai for illicit activities; all infront of the queues. My head couldn't drop any lower in humiliation.

    They carried on with their so called "professionalism" by taking turns to joke about my situation, not aware that I could understand them and felt really disrespected.

    Eventually, I managed to get help from family and case closed. However now, I am blacklisted(not banned) on my passport.

    One of the immigrations officer even took the liberty to interrogate me infront of the entire crowd until I spoke Thai and told him the nature of my visit. But he looked as if in disbelief and smirked, knowing he has all the power to ruin my life. He asked me "So next time you will come Thailand again?"

    Unprofessional, heartless and disrespectful.

    Never again Thailand, my heart has lost its sense of belonging.



  • NO said

    busted with weed: 60K
    busted with coke: 90K´.. if you are lucky

  • FeDos said

    It's sad to hear all these bad stories :(

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