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Woods & Brangwin, PLLC

632 Valley Mall Parkway
East Wenatchee, Washington 98802

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Fx. (509) 663-6064

Justice Around the World
Written by John Brangwin
Thursday, 15 April 2010 08:00
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For the past several years I have visited Thailand, specifically the resort and ex-patriot area of Chonburi, approximately 90 miles south-east of Bangkok.


On a couple of occasions I have been stopped by the police for a traffic violation.  One time was for running a red light, although it was more like a right-on-red.  There were three problems with that:  1.  They don’t have right-on-red in Thailand.  2.  Since they drive on the left hand side of the road (like England, Australia and Japan) taking a right was the American equivalent of turning left.  Of course, Thailand doesn‘t have left-on-red either.  3.  There was a cop watching.  The other time I was stopped was for going the wrong way on a one-way street. 



Both times the stop was conducted the same, although one of the stops ended strangely.  The policemen were on foot standing on the sidewalk.  When I committed the violation, the policeman simply flagged me down and I pulled over.  You have to know that, like most of the traffic, I was driving a moped.  I always rent a moped in Thailand; it costs less than $5 US a day.  They are about 50cc’s with a top speed of about 100KM to 120KM (62MPH to 75MPH)---top speed is a white knuckle ride.  In any event, I pulled my moped off to the side and the officer asks for my license or passport.  I don’t carry either.  In both cases I was given a ticket, but worse I was made to give the officer my keys and leave the moped there until I paid the ticket.  See in Thailand there’s really no way to contest the ticket.  Your only option is to go to the police station and pay the ticket.  In one case I walked there and in the other case I took a moped taxi. 


When you get to the police station, there’s a big sign with all of the possible offenses (see photo). 



 Each time my offense had a fine of 400 Baht each---about $12.  Once I paid my fine, I was given a receipt which I then took back to the officer who gave me my keys.


As you can see from the photo of the sign, Reckless Driving---a crime that in Washington State carries mandatory license suspension and the possibility of a year in jail and $5,000 in fines---caries only the same 400 Baht fine as not wearing your helmet, a fine of about $125 here.


I read in the paper recently that a Swiss millionaire was fined $290,000 for going 85MPH in a 50MPH zone in St. Gallen Switzerland.  The fine for that in Washington would be about $300.  It’s interesting to consider the differences of justice around the world, from a $12 fine to a fine that’s almost $300,000.  Of course, the Swiss man was a millionaire and in Thailand a factory worker earns about $10 a day for 10 hours of work.


Now, back to the strange thing that happened in Thailand after one of my tickets.  When I returned with my receipt, the officer, in very broken English, asked me where I was headed next.  I told him in loud English (because speaking loud always helps) that I didn’t have any plans.  He then pointed to his gun and said “Go shoot?”.  Eventually, I figured out that he was inviting me to shoot his service pistol.  I got on my moped and followed him.  He ran the red light with me following (I’m not kidding) and drove for about 5 minutes, eventually arriving at an indoor shooting range.  Once inside he un-holstered his pistol and allowed me to shoot at a target.  He was impressed I shot so well.  I bought a box of shells and had a little contest with him---he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.  Can you imagine a Washington State Patrol Trooper, in his bow tie and shiny shoes, offering to let you shoot his pistol after writing you a ticket?


Justice, especially traffic ticket justice, really is different all over the world.  JMB_Thailand_2 JMB_Thailand_3












John Brangwin is a partner in the Wenatchee law firm of Woods & Brangwin, PLLC and concentrates on defending those accused of DUI, but he and the other lawyers in his firm, also defend drivers in traffic infractions.  He is ranked “superb” by Avvo, an attorney rating firm.  He is a member of the National College for DUI Defense, the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and the Washington State Association for Justice. 


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