Thailand police: Foreigners not required to carry passports at all times
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Thailand police: Foreigners not required to carry passports at all times

By James Martin

A police spokesman has said that foreigners in Thailand are not required to carry their passports with them at all times, according to reports.

The statement follows reports of tourists and expats in central Bangkok being extorted by police for not carrying passports.

Asian Correspondent ran a story on the  ‘Bangkok shakedown’ last week, which was followed the next day by a notably similar story in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Bangkok Post reported Tuesday that police were looking into the matter after the media attention.

Pol Lt Gen Prawut Thawornsiri was responding to an article published by The Sydney Morning Herald on Dec 12, which said a growing number of foreign tourists are being stopped, searched and harassed by Thai officials on busy Sukhumvit road.

The issue was also raised with Thailand tourism authorities by British Ambassador Mark Kent:

On Wednesday, Thailand blog Sticky Boy Bangkok reported:

Pol Lt Gen Prawut Thawornsiri, spokesman for the Royal Thai Police, has said tourists DO NOT need to carry passports at all times. His comment came when he was responding to the recent tourist shakedown reports in various media outlets over the past month. He stated that if asked to show their passports, tourists can produce their documents at a later time if necessary.

That report was based on this story (in Thai) published on Manager Online. There have been conflicting reports over the need for foreigners to carry passports in recent months, and tourists and expats may be well advised to play it safe. Eminent Thailand travel blogger Richard Barrow had this advice Wednesday:

 

From our original report:

Over recent weeks there has been a sharp increase in reports of police harassment, intimidation and flat-out extortion in the Sukhumvit area, usually between Thong Lor and Asoke. While stories of the Bangkok police engaging in less than exemplary behavior are not new, and no official statistics for ‘on-the-spot fines’ exist, there does seem to be a policy of targeting foreign males in prime tourist areas at the moment, although due to their unofficial nature these reports remain unverifiable.

What are your rights if you are stopped? First, it is recommended to carry identification. A photocopy of your passport might do, but carrying the original is probably the wiser choice at the moment, especially around Sukhumvit.  Even Thai citizens are legally required to carry some form of ID.