Bangkok is known as city with massive traffic congestion. Cars are usually at a stand still because of grid lock. For us, it was a different story. Imagine how you might feel if you got pulled over by a very stern looking policeman in a foreign country. Well, it happened to me and my colleagues. We have a regular driver in Thailand, and he’s very reliable. We were on the highway and after we went through a toll booth, a policeman waved our driver over.
They had a conversation in Thai and I could only understand every 50th word. They talked at each other for quite a while. Finally, after what felt like an hour, but was probably only 10 minutes, we drove away.
We asked our driver why we were stopped. He said that the officer wanted 500 baht because his license was expired. However, the license wasn’t expired. He said he wanted a payoff to let our driver go without a ticket. Our driver argued back with him and finally told the officer what organization we were working with and that it would be very embarrassing if the foreigners told about their driver who was asked for a payout and after a lot of argument, the officer finally let us go.
I have to admit, not knowing nearly enough Thai, and not understanding what was happening, I was a bit scared for a while there. We all were. As we drove away, we asked the driver for the story. He told us, as I’ve relayed above, and said that it’s quite common in Thailand for officers to ask for bribes.
In the office this week, someone we’re working with was telling us about an officer on her street that was stopping cabs and trucks and asking them for money. For a cab driver or private driver, 500 baht can be very expensive. Corruption is a problem in Thailand, as with many other countries around the world, and it was interesting to see it first hand.
Have you ever seen corruption up close and in person?