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The move is perceived as a precursor to Thailand introducing a points system for driver’s licences as used in many Western countries through which repeat offenders, if they commit enough traffic offences, can have their licences suspended or even revoked.
However, and especially at this time of year, a great revenue earner for the Royal Thai Police is fining tourists for operating a rental vehicle while holding only a driver’s licence issued in their home country, for example in England, the US, France, Germany, Italy and Australia.
Motorbike and car rentals shops seem to consistently forget to inform tourists that these licences are not valid in Thailand unless they are accompanied by an International Driving Permit, as issued in their home country under the terms of the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic.
This is the only way the Royal Thai Police recognise a foreign driver’s licence.
Under the 1949 Convention, an International Driving Permit (IDP) is an identity document that allows the holder to drive a private motor vehicle in any country that recognises IDPs. To be valid, the IDP must be accompanied by a valid driving licence.
Many long-term expats like to argue that the 1949 Convention was superseded by the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, signed into effect on Nov 8, 1968. That is not quite true.
The Vienna Convention is an international treaty designed to facilitate international road traffic and to increase road safety by establishing standard traffic rules among the contracting parties.
However, although Thailand signed the both international conventions, not all aspects of the agreements were ratified into law in Thailand – which means not all of the agreements are enforced and upheld in the Kingdom.
Specifically regarding foreign driver’s licences, Article 43 of the Vienna Convention came into effect on March 29, 2011.
That Article demands that the Vienna Convention “Contracting Parties” – including Thailand – to recognise as valid for driving in their territories: “any domestic driver’s licence drawn up in their national language or in one of their national languages, or, if not drawn up in such a language, accompanied by a certified translation”.
However, this part of the international convention was never ratified into law in Thailand, and so Royal Thai Police officers are fully within their rights to pull over tourists and fine them for not having an appropriate driver’s licence if all they have is a licence issued in their home country.
To this The Phuket News asks readers the simple question, “Should Thailand recognise driver’s licences issued by other countries?”
Responses available in the poll are:
To vote in the poll click here.
If your preferred response is not available, feel free to add it in the comments below.
To see the results of our previous poll “How serious should the beach smoking ban be?”, click here.