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Thailand forum

The Bangkok cigarette littering scam

Posted by somtam2000 on 12/9/2010 at 18:56 admin

Richard Barrow over at Paknam web has a great write-up (with pics!) on the "littering scam" in Bangkok where cops (or often not even real cops) fine tourists for tossing cigarette buts on the ground. The fine is a stock standard 2,000B -- quite hefty really -- and the argument goes that tourists are unfairingly treated (ie Thais tend to get let off with a warning or nego the fine).

I agree in principle that it is a rort, but isn't the obvious remedy not to throw your buts on the ground?


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Posted by chaos23 on 12/9/2010 at 20:01

hej, I am a smoker too - and each time I am in Bangkok, I am very aware of that fact and do not litter. theres always a stall with a trashcan nearby ...or sth like that.

I did never meet those "cops" just heard a rumour about it or maybe read sth on the net about it. But I am used to it since in my hometown there have been some "sheriffs in help" which were claiming a fee of 15-20 € and even chased after you. there wasn´t even a real law for that and since the balance between paying these "helpers" and getting money from "sinners" was not good, the experiment was stopped after a year or so.

but it´s not only BKK: what about KL or Singapur, New York or Tokyo?

Or on a lonely secluded beach? Please take your butts to the next trash bin, it´s not that hard.

If not, then pay. And I do not care if it´s a real or a fake cope... should´ve known better.

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Posted by mooball on 12/9/2010 at 20:04 TF writer

I don't like the word scam in this context. In many places in the world local officials try and impose fines on tourists for technical breaches of the law and most people just pay up to keep the peace. Usually it comes under the umbrella of corruption as the money doesn't go to Government coffers - not really a scam.

In this case, people have clearly broken the law and someone is simply trying to extract money out of them. I say good on them for giving it a lash!

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Posted by chaos23 on 12/9/2010 at 20:05

and I am visiting BKK since 4 years now .. AND I DEFINETELY KNOW NOT TO SMOKE NEXT TO A BMA ...EVER since the start ...

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Posted by SBE on 12/9/2010 at 20:18

You hardly ever see a Thai walking and smoking a cigarette in Bangkok ... it's nearly always tourists and Westerners smoking on the streets so I guess it's natural they get specially targeted for fines. There are designated areas where you can smoke (bins provided) outside some shopping malls but mostly there's nowhere to throw away your cigarette butt ... take a tin or something to put it in if you must smoke while walking on the street.

The pictures in Richard Barrow's piece were taken on the BTS skywalk. This is one of the few places in Bangkok where pedestrians can actually walk rather than shuffle along at a snail's pace because there are no obstructions like street vendors, food stalls, stairwells, beggars, lamp posts, bill boards and busy traffic intersections blocking your path. The skywalk provides living proof that Thais can walk just as fast as Westerners when they want/are able to. I'm pretty sure it's forbidden to smoke, eat or drink on the skywalk so just lighting up a cigarette without even littering could get you fined there.

On the congested pavements/sidewalks of Bangkok it's a different matter. Street vendors chuck their rubbish on the street or down the storm drains (which causes flooding in the rainy season) with apparent impunity. This could be because they are renting their spot on the pavement from the "owners" ... who are the boys in brown I think?

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Posted by exacto on 13/9/2010 at 01:15

the obvious way to avoid this problem is by not throwing your butts on the ground, but that doesn't make this any less of a scam or any less of a high-profile, official act of corruption. the thai police are specifically targeting foreign tourists (or those they think are foreign tourists), which also makes this racist-based behavior and speaks to the lengthy dual-pricing discussion we had on the board a while back.

if this were part of a comprehensive plan to clean up the streets of bangkok that would be one thing. but it isn't. thais are getting away with the exact same act when foreigners are not. just take a quick glance around to see all the trash on the streets and the myriad of other laws not being enforced.

there are many wonderful and praise-worthy things about thailand, but this isn't one of them and in no way should it be defended.

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Posted by neosho on 13/9/2010 at 06:28

As a follow up to the Spectrum article I posted about, Spectrum talked to head of the ministry in charge of this. He said it should be a warning the first time and refuse to pay the fine. He also said to look for a "real" policeman and report the wrong doers. He doesn't say that his department will look into the problem. So it's up to the tourist to fix the problem.

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Posted by shaydan_01 on 13/9/2010 at 21:45

Not littering = no problem :)

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Posted by DLuek on 14/9/2010 at 06:25 TF writer

Agreed with exacto that racial profiling is not a good thing, and yes this is another example of the foreign tourist being taken advantage of... Yet, it's not the greatest example because the tourists are in fact doing something wrong. Littering is also illegal in most (if not all) of the countries where these foreigners come from, so they should know better. I don't smoke anymore, but when I did I never chucked the butts on the ground, no matter what country I was in. Perhaps some of these tourists wouldn't litter in their home towns, but they feel it's okay to do it in a "dirty", "developing" "third world" country. Thus, maybe some of the tourists are also taking advantage of the situation? It seems that many of them certainly act in idiotic ways - while in SE Asia - that they otherwise wouldn't in their home towns. While scamming and profiling is not good, people do need to take responsibility for their actions. Just more food for thought...

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Posted by neosho on 14/9/2010 at 07:51

The issue is equal enforcement under the law. Not whether a law has been broken. It may be illegal in the tourist's home country but is probably enforced equally.

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