Pirate-goods sellers protest being “exploited’ through alleged government extortion

PHUKET: A barrage of complaints were voiced by pirate-goods sellers during a protest against allegedly being forced to pay “too much” extortion money to a variety of government officers based in Bangkok.

“They come for money every day, but it’s always a different officer,” said one of the protesters, who declined to be named.

“They ask for 3,000 baht or more, and if they arrest a vendor, it can cost more than 50,000 baht to have the charge cleared.”

The protester claimed that officers told him that they sent the money to their bosses in Bangkok.

The group of vendors from about 40 different shops in Patong took to Rat-U-Thit 200 Pi Road and Thaweewong Road carrying signs which read in Thai, “Shop closed to escape exploitation”, “Closed because we cannot afford to pay extortion money” and “Did not sell ya bah [methamphetamine], why do they think we commit a crime.”

The protesters demanded that relevant officers fix the problem.

“We know the goods are illegal, but tourists like them,” the protester said.

Reports have yet to surface regarding any arrests of protesters.

However, in July last year, a Department of Special Investigation (DSI) task force arrested seven people and seized pirated goods with an estimated street value of more than 100 million baht (story here).

Prior to that, in February, Miss Universe 2005 Natalie Glebova joined officials as they destroyed pirated goods worth about 216 million baht in a ceremony in Phuket (story here).

Despite regularly destroying hundreds of millions of baht of pirated goods a year, Thailand struggles to shake the image of being a hub for counterfeit goods.

In May 2012, the nation found itself in the international spotlight after Lady Gaga landed in Bangkok for her “Born this Way Ball” performance.

Shortly after her arrival, the pop star tweeted to more than 24 million Twitter followers, “I just landed in Bangkok baby! Ready for 50,000 screaming Thai monsters. I wanna get lost in a lady market and buy a fake Rolex.”

In response, the Commerce Ministry’s Intellectual Property Department officially expressed its disappointment to the United States Embassy, reported The Nation.

— Kritsada Mueanhawong

Phuket News

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