Sukhumvit Road is the heart of the tourist area in Bangkok. Here there are shopping malls, five star hotels, restaurants and bars aplenty. The pavements, however, are virtually impassable, the uneven, broken paving home to hundreds of stalls selling everything from counterfeit T-shirt to counterfeit Viagra. I wonder whether there is even a single stall selling solely legal goods.

When I first came to Bangkok there were stalls selling pornography, but it was discrete. You’d be asked “want to buy a dirty movie?”, and if you showed interest you’d be shown a catalog. (Not, to be clear, that I ever did show an interest.) Subsequently the trade became more open, first with CD jackets with women showing their breasts. Then there were DVD covers showing couples making babies. And now you can see even more hard-core material: bestiality and child pornography, all on open display. You wonder why the police who patrol the area don’t do anything to stop this obscene trade.

Actually, you don’t wonder for too long: the stall holders pay a weekly fee to the local police officers for them to turn a blind eye. The police in this part of town are particularly corrupt. In Patpong, a seedy area famed for its night market and live sex shows, no such material is available; that district’s police uphold the legal ban on erectile dysfunction drugs, sex toys and pornography.

ChoeyIn an effort to bring a greater rule of law to Thailand the police have brought one officer out of retirement – an officer who has never solicited a bribe or been involved in a sex scandal. You might say Police Sergeant Choey is a model officer, and you’d be right. He’s made of plaster. The new Police Major General has decided to bring him back in the hope that the sight of a plaster officer will help deter crime. He’s to be joined by a new recruit, Police Sergeant Yim. Let’s hope this dynamic duo can clean up the mean streets of Bangkok.


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