|  April 30, 2009

[right]Police Commander of Chiang Mai Major General Sommai Kongvisaisuk[/right]

Shock waves have lately sent expat dipsomaniacs flying from their bar stools, having been told their favourite drinking hole will close at midnight, and no, there will not be any ‘concessions’. Then compounding one drinker’s grief on the way home from his upended night, he’s stopped by cops for not wearing a helmet, while riding drunk, on a bike that is neither insured, registered, taxed or is even supposed to exist . . . and his backhander is sent crashing to the curb. “What is going on with this country!?” He wailed.

Is Chiang Mai cleaning up its act? Don’t tell me we’re about to start enforcing the law properly. After all this lawlessness it somehow feels like a mighty unfair impingement of our rights.

We spoke with the man behind the latest clampdowns, checkpoints and closures. New Police Commander of Chiang Mai, Major General Sommai Kongvisaisuk, formerly of Korat Police, is stalwart when enforcing the trammels of the law. “These are not new rules,” he told us, “it’s always been the law, I am just enforcing laws that were not enforced in the past.” The rules he is talking about are some traffic laws, such as big bikes being unregistered, drunk driving and riding without a helmet. He will also ensure that pubs, restaurants and bars close according to the law.

“Pubs and restaurants will close at midnight and discos and bars can stay open until 2 a.m.,” said the commander. When I asked him if he thought this would affect already dwindling tourist numbers and the suffering Thai economy, he answered in the positive, but added that he was only enforcing the law, that was his job. “We don’t make the laws, that is political.” On closing times he added, “Pattaya has a special dispensation but Chiang Mai is a cultural city, we don’t want Chiang Mai ending up like Pattaya.” He added that when the later places are open the more they become a hive for drugs, gangs and prostitution, that is why they must enforce the law. “Other commanders did not enforce the law correctly, but I will,” he said smiling, his demeanour always jaunty and energetic. “At Songkran, just because it’s a festival, there may be certain flexibility of the law, but after that, back to normal.”

“We will have 49 police check points for drunk driving in Chiang Mai province, if you test over 50 mg you will be arrested. There will also be speed check points and helmet check points.”

As for unregistered bikes he said, “These bikes are not legal, in the past we weren’t sure if by taking the bikes we’d affect tourism, but now we are enforcing this rule.” Chiang Mai police will take all unregistered bikes off the streets, to get them back you’ll have to pay the tax which will most likely be more than the bike cost you. “We will send the bikes to customs and they will be registered and then auctioned off.” He stated that if anyone had an accident on one of these uninsured bikes that it would cause a major problem. All these bikes will be seized.

So there you go, the crackdown is on, lock up your big bikes or face the wrath of the old bill. No more six o’clock Spicy nights or crawling back to your apartment on the sunrise ‘walk of shame’, those days are over according to our new boss in brown. One step at a time, he said, when I asked him about his plans for the future. No doubt in the eyes of Chiang Mai’s citizens, Thai or farang, he will be both good cop and bad cop, it remains to see if the RTP can gain the trust of the people, and clean up their own house as well as clean up ours.