Sorry to be an old misery so close to Christmas but I need to put out a warning on a current ‘Thai insurance scam’ as the country is entering into peak tourist season.

The headline is not intended to mislead. Everyone should get health and accident insurance. That’s a given.

But insurance against loss of valuables can be a double edged sword. Best bring nothing to Thailand except a cheap laptop or smart phone and be willing to write it off. Of if you do keep under lock and key.

Unfortunately this is a scam carried out by the police and the courts – and the most notable case was that of Jason Sudra from London, a supermarket manager, who was banged up for a month in Nong Plalai jail, Pattaya, without even seeing a judge.

This scam happens when tourists go to police and claim they were attacked and robbed.  They can get the reply that police have checked CCTV and no such incident has taken place – so you must be taking part in a holiday insurance scam…Bang! The keys go in the cell door and the hapless victim will soon be begging for mercy.

In cases reported the foreigner is asked to sign a statement saying he will go to court and everything will be settled with a 500 baht fine (ten quid) and having spent time in custody the victim will be more than willing to sign on a policeman’s word.

At the court in the cases mentioned foreigners will not actually be brought before a judge. They will be asked to sign some more paperwork in Thai – and Bob’s your uncle they have signed their own prison sentence.

The Sudra case was particularly abhorrent. He remonstrated with a policeman in a hotel lobby who was sorting out a ‘ladyboy’ who claimed she had been underpaid by a punter – and told the policeman he had been robbed on the Beach Road, Pattaya, which was true, but he had already written off the incident as it was only a cheap camera and watch and mobile phone he lost.

He was charged with carrying out an insurance scam – and he did not even have travel insurance for theft – just health.

The police gave him a price for his acquittal which he refused to pay.

He spent a month in jail before an intervention was made and was subject to headlines like the one on the right.

Similar things have been happening in tourist areas of southern Thailand and in one new case a young Brit was banged up. I cannot give details as this case is not over. But its going to cost upwards of £10,000.

But think carefully before going to Thai police with any complaint. There are some good ones, but it’s not worth chancing your luck. If you need to make a report for an insurance claim, bring someone with you at all times.

If you have the misfortune to have a lawyer – do not go for the first one who happens to appear to help you.  You will need another lawyer to get your cash back from him.

Oh – and avoid bringing British fifty pound notes to Thailand and trying to cash them at a tourist kiosk.  Some of these operators have fake notes which they can say you gave them.  You could suddenly find yourself in a lock up in a scam worked with local police…begging to give money to be allowed to go free. Don’t think you’ll be any safer by going to a kiosk of any of the big trading or Thai high street banks. 

* Because you are Thailand – Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha’s latest patriotic song release calling on citizens to defend the country against an unperceived enemy.
About the Author

Andrew Drummond

Andrew Drummond is a British independent journalist and occasional television documentary maker. He is a former Fleet Street, London, journalist having worked at the Evening Standard, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, News of the World, Observer and The Times.

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