According to Law – Pattaya Expat
20 August 2015
‘Knowledge of law’ is a bit different from saying ‘knowledge of the law,’ as the word ‘the’ suggests that we are speaking of all laws in general and some sort of expertise in most facets of jurisprudence or law enforcement. At first glance the difference might be seen as nit-picking but a word here or there or not there can make a world of difference.
The more generic ‘knowledge of law’ simply means that a person should have an overall common sense grasp of what it legal and what is not as well as some specific knowledge of certain laws that fall within the personal interests of an average citizen. Immigration, for example, is important around the world and some knowledge of how it applies to you – either as a holder of a visa, illegal alien or natural born citizen wary of foreigners. If you have some knowledge, in this case, of what ‘the’ law says about immigration as it relates to you, that makes you knowledgeable and perhaps while not an authority at least someone who knows what he or she is talking about: this kind of person is becoming more and more difficult to find these days; too many people holding opinions and expressing them that are way off the mark.
One exception to the immigration aspects is here in Thailand where everyone knows that the maximum overstay fine is 20,000 Baht. While that is still over $600, it could be a drop in the bucket for someone who wants to stay but can’t justify a visa. Perhaps he or she is working upcountry at a local school, earning around 30,000 Baht a month, and given the fact that a year can go by without any police coming around, the income of 350,000 Baht plus more than makes up for the fine. As well, for some nationalities the length of permitted stay is too short. Many of these visitors have the financial resources to easily weather the fine and are willing to pay it just for having had the pleasure of staying in the kingdom as long as they want to or feel the need to.
Knowing the law and enforcing it are entirely two different kettles of fish, so to speak. While there is probably a law or regulation or statute or rule that governs almost anything you can think of, it sometimes appears that the one you need to be on your side has either never been enforced before or it has usually proven not worth the time or effort by the police and courts. One of the favorite scams in Thailand illustrates this – that of jet ski rip-offs. The modus operandi is to rent you a jet ski and when you turn it back in the owner proclaims you have damaged it and repair will cost $2,000 or more. Now the normal situation is that the jet ski incurred no damage while you were renting it but knowing that you are going to be here for a short stay you are an ideal mark for the con artist. He knows you cannot afford to spend the time arguing and facing possible delays of not boarding a plane and so on and thus he pushes all the levers at his disposal to bilk you out of money he wants just because he is a lazy S.O.B. and you are a foreigner who may be upset and never come back but a bird in the hand for him is worth two in the bush. So what if you never come back! Short-sighted? Oh, absolutely? Rare? No.
- A big secret in this particular scam, and many more where you are taken to the police station, is that the entire issue does not belong in the police station! That’s right. It is a civil matter and not a criminal one. The owner/renter is claiming damages for something covered under civil law. However, if his claims are likely fraudulent then he is violating criminal law himself. This is an instance of the detailed part of certain laws that you ought to be familiar with. Whether you are directly involved in such a scam as a victim, or whether you want to provide a few words of advice to someone who is facing it or who you wish to warn, here are a couple of steps to take when such a situation arises:
- Even if the other party insists you go to the police, you can go but at the station calmly and politely remind them that the matter is civil, not criminal, and that the owner/renter should be filling out a legal complaint at his lawyer’s office and not at the police station. Explain to the police that you sincerely appreciate their kindness in helping to try to resolve this conflict but that you firmly believe this to be a civil matter…and ask them, indeed, whether or not they agree. Nine times out of ten they will but even then possibly try to work with the guy claiming you did something you did not do to resolve the problem by financial compromise. There is no need, in most cases, to do this.
- Also kindly remind the owner/operator that it being a civil matter you would love to sit down with his lawyer, or even go to court, and that you have a legal representative in Thailand representing your interests. This may or may not be accurate – recall that strategy is important here.
- The strategy in standing up for civil consideration and not criminal is first, it is not a criminal case, and secondly you want to absolve yourself as efficiently as possible. In this circumstance while at the police station, for example, calmly insist that the other party write a formal legal letter accusing you of damaging the jet ski, together with evidence, and that your representative will be glad to deal with the matter. Remember, again, that police have absolutely no say in this and that they will back off if they see a dead end – pun not intended but do exercise wisdom and caution. Be respectful at all times to the police and the con artist you are facing. Such people hate it when you seem to be so fair that they feel guilty – and this happens.