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Opinion: Moral conflict over tea money



PHUKET: There are always stories of people who allegedly slip the immigration police money in their passport to cross the border into Thailand, whether it’s because they don’t have proper documentation or are perhaps nervous about the police giving them a hard time.

Recently a friend of mine went on a visa run to secure her non-B visa. She had all of the right documentation to receive the visa. However, upon arrival at the border the van driver allegedly instructed everyone to put 200 baht in his or her passport so that there wouldn’t be any issues with Immigration.

My friend was perturbed, as she didn’t want to perpetuate corruption and assumed that she had all the correct papers to cross back into Thailand without any problems.

Unfortunately, she was pressured not only by the driver but also other passengers to put the money in her passport because they didn’t want to wait for her if she was to be given a hard time by the police.

This made her livid, as she felt she was entitled to a corruption-free entry into the country where she lawfully worked.

She felt caught up in a catch-22 situation because Thailand wants to rid itself of corruption, yet one of the main places where the practice flourishes is at entry points throughout the Kingdom, and these areas do not allow cameras or picture-taking of any kind.

How is one supposed to give proof of corruption if it can’t be documented? There needs to be a better way to monitor the behavior of van drivers and police officers at borders in order to punish these people for existing conspiracies and to discourage any future ones.

I understand that for “security reasons” it’s difficult to allow private cameras at border crossings, but there needs to be at least some kind of control function there that will work in the public interest.

For a foreigner, it is difficult and perhaps unwise to complain about corruption in government, but I would hope that in time action will finally be taken against those who keep this vicious cycle alive, so that the primary victims of it, foreigners – at borders at least – will no longer be forced into the ugly and humiliating practice of paying bribes.

— Samantha Hodges


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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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