This week I received a frantic call from an Australian friend on Phuket.
A Thai “friend” of his had offered to return his rented motorbike but had disappeared with it. The owner of the motorbike turned up with the police demanding he pay for a brand new motorbike. The police had apparently made no effort to track down the bike or the man who absconded with it, even though he lived on Phuket.
My friend offered to pay the rental until the bike turned up, but the police insisted he pay cash for a new one, or he would held in the cells. They had confiscated his passport although he had committed no crime. He asked for time to see if the bike turned up, but the police only wanted cash and offered no receipt.
He only had returned to Phuket to get a tattoo finished, having avoided the island for more than a decade after being previously cheated by police there.
Nothing has changed on Phuket or Patong beach it seems: the same scams, same dirty, corrupt, cash-chasing police. My friend has a brother who is a filmmaker. I have urged him to make a viral video warning would-be visitors of what potentially awaits them on Phuket. Who can you complain to about these matters? The police? This man will probably never set foot in Thailand again, joining the long, long list of people who now spend their cash elsewhere after being extorted by corrupt Thai police.
He has holidayed in both Cambodia and Vietnam for the last decade without being caught up in this type of nonsense. As of writing this letter, he has not had his passport returned. I suspect that is going to cost him even more than the US$3,000 he has paid the police already.
My advice to people thinking of visiting Phuket is always the same – just do not go there.