The thin brown line speeds to wrong conclusion

I am constantly amazed at our wonderful Men-in-Brown, our city's finest, Bangkok's police force.

I recognise that they do a great job for Bangkok citizens who are always getting into some sort of trouble one way or another.

But sometimes I wish they would stick to preventing crime and solving cases, rather than spreading themselves so thin by trying to pick on things that are petty, and then getting it all wrong.

It's just a waste of time and resources that they don't have.

My son used to drive his own car, but sold it two years ago, resorting instead to public transport _ the BTS, MRT and taxis. Once in a while he will jump on the back of a motorcycle taxi, but prefers to walk than risk his neck.

So it was quite a surprise to him, and to me, when he received an official letter from the traffic police saying he had been caught speeding on camera on Rama II Road in Samut Songkhram province. Was it possible that he had been speeding some time two or three years back and the police were finally on to him?

Attached to the letter was a photocopy of an image of the front of a car, showing the number plate.

The funny thing was that a) he had never driven to Samut Songkhram in his life, b) he wasn't driving anywhere that particular day, and c) the car was totally alien to him.

I can only assume that the car registration system is computerised, so police can just call up a licence plate number and find out the name of the owner. There is always the possibility of human error, of punching one wrong key and getting another name, thereby attributing the violation to someone totally innocent.

I was getting ready to write a nice letter to the traffic police to explain that they must have made a mistake, but was procrastinating as I always do.

Hardly a week had gone by when my son received a second letter.

My heart sank a bit. Were they already chasing him for not reporting to the police station to pay his fine for the violation he wasn't guilty of?

This time, however, he was accused of speeding on the Bang Phli-Suk Sawat expressway. A dark, fuzzy image was attached, this time showing the rear of a car and its number plate, which belonged to yet another unknown car.

The closest my son has been to any "Suk Sawat" is his mother's surname. He doesn't know his way around Bangkok very well; when he was young he would fall asleep immediately in the car as I was driving, and wake up only when we reached our destination. His GPS system is to call his mother.

"Mummy, where am I?"

"Let me guess? Hong Kong? Okay, where are you trying to go? What are some landmarks you can point out to me now? Uh-oh, you're going the wrong way. You have to do a U-turn now, otherwise you'll end up in Nakhon Pathom."

So I can assure you, he does not go to Suk Sawat Road or Rama II Road of his own accord. He is happy on his home turf of Sukhumvit, and he can just about make his way to Abac Bang Na, but that's about it.

So to receive two letters in quick succession accusing him of speeding all around Greater Bangkok was getting a bit much, and my original "nice" letter to the police is not going to be so "nice" after all.

Why don't they just come and observe my soi for a 24-hour period. The soi is narrow enough as it is, though cars and trucks can just about manoeuvre past each other. But one side is overrun by vendors who have set up their little eateries, complete with tables and chairs and umbrellas, while the other side is dotted with parked motorcycles from the taxi queue and messenger services, as well as delivery trucks that off-load goods to the restaurants and shops in the tiny community mall on the corner.

There's even a stall with clothes hung up on the wall that says: "No vending."

Lunchtime traffic has to be extra careful about pedestrians who take advantage of these food stalls.

At night things get serious. A dubious nightclub allows clients to park on the side of the soi, while taxis line up to deliver eager night owls to the noisy pub on the other corner. The main road has taxis double and triple parked, patiently waiting for customers leaving pubs, nightclubs, massage parlours, and masseuses leaving their shift mostly with big tips from happy clients.

If I come home late at night, I can hardly get into my own soi.

So, my dear Traffic Wardens, there are dozens of other things you could direct your efforts at other than sending bogus tickets to innocent people.

I'm sure you would be much more appreciated.

Usnisa Sukhsvasti is the Features Editor of the Bangkok Post.

About the author

Writer: Usnisa Sukhsvasti
Position: Features Editor