Police checkpoints are nothing new in Pattaya. There have always been checkpoints targeting (mainly foreign) motorcyclists not carrying crash helmets and appropriate driving licenses (yes, you must always wear a helmet and officially need a Thai driving license.) Other checkpoints would target specifically Thai drivers that might be carrying drugs or weapons.
Yes, the police would often single out foreigners. And while the official fines for traffic violations are very reasonable, you may have your motorbike locked up and be in for a long wait at the police station to pay your fine of a few hundred Baht. (Bribing isn’t much of an option anymore.)
But while that’s all business as usual here’s the crux of the matter: With an increased crackdown on drunk driving, the number of checkpoints all over Pattaya hasn’t just substantially increased in recent months it seems – you may now also run into checkpoints in previously “safe” parts of town, most likely so on the “dark side” it appears.
(Your webmaster should add he preferably uses main routes and avoids “back Soi’s” and presumed shortcuts where the “boys in brown” are usually stationed, so has never run into a DUI checkpoint himself. But yes, he has more than a handful of mates who were stopped, breathalyzed and fined – one way or another – in recent months.)
Pattaya Daily News now report that a group of over 30 motorcycle rental shop owners complained to Pattaya city officials this week that they were losing revenue due to an increased number of police checkpoints around Pattaya and the “high fines” the “boys in brown” were charging their customers.
The business operators claimed that traffic police especially
targeted tourists on their rented bikes and charged them very high fines. The fines were still given out by the police even though the riders were carrying the correct documents and had their licenses.
As a result, increasing numbers of tourists had returned their rented motorbikes and “[asked] for their money back causing the operators to lose revenue.”
The shop owners warned that the growing number of checkpoints singling out exceedingly foreign tourists would eventually “impact the economy and tourism” and threaten the motorcycle rental business that has been “running for 2-3 decades” in Pattaya.
Well, riding their “own” (rented) motorcycle is certainly part and parcel of the ultimate “Pattaya experience” for many loyal return visitors. And if they’re “carrying the correct documents and licenses,” they should obviously never be fined for whatever fantastic reasons the boys in brown may produce.
On the other hand, let’s face it, many of these foreign motorcyclists do not always carry a correct driving license, or they may have had a drink or two before going for a ride. All against the law. Nothing to argue about.
But like it or not, driving “under the influence” and without a helmet may be just as illegal and dangerous as it’s a long-established “tradition” for many Pattaya old hands. So yes, increasing numbers of police checkpoints targeting specifically “cash-loaded” Farangs may at one point surely impact the foreign tourist experience in Pattaya.
No, we wouldn’t go as far as saying that increasing numbers of checkpoints “threaten” the local economy (which is largely based on tourism). But there are lessons to learn for both sides:
As for foreigners/foreign tourists riding motorbikes in Pattaya – don’t drive when you’re drunk in the first place; do always wear a crash helmet (it may not effectively protect you in the event of an accident but will stop traffic police from taking notice of you); and if you haven’t got a driving license you better stick to Baht buses.
As for the “boys in brown”, well, you would assume they know the rules – and play by them, won’t you?