Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


Counterfeit Money is a Genuine Worry for Thailand

Counterfeit Money is a Genuine Worry for Thailand

by Richard S. Ehrlich

Click to enlarge

A genuine 1,000-baht Thai currency note.

BANGKOK, Thailand -- In this mimic-happy land brimming with counterfeit designer goods, illegal software, duplicated movies, sham medicine, forged passports, and other professionally faked items, genuine fear has suddenly appeared.

People have become nervous and insecure because counterfeiters are churning out bogus Thai currency.

Toothless grannies selling fresh papayas, grilled mackerel and other Thai favorites in streetside markets, are rejecting customers who try to pay with a 1,000-baht note, which is Thailand's biggest paper currency, worth about 30 U.S. dollars.

Vendors are examining each 1,000-baht with squinty-eyed scrutiny, attracting gossipers who excitedly offer opinions about the money's possible validity.

Shopkeepers in sparkling, air-conditioned malls, meanwhile, smile and coyly pretend not to have enough change to break a 1,000, hardly caring if they lose a sale.

Moody taxi-drivers groan, wriggle and recoil in horror if a passenger presents the gray paper rectangle after a ride through town.

This Buddhist-majority, Southeast Asian nation has long enjoyed, and suffered, bountiful displays of counterfeit goods publicly on sale, while nonchalant police stroll by.

On crowded Khao San Road, where most international backpackers stay, street stalls offer counterfeit identification cards from America and Europe, including U.N. agencies, Interpol, the F.B.I., media establishments, universities, and foreign airports, which buyers can flash to try and trick officials or breach security.

Thai police have said that the documents are often not considered illegal within Thailand, simply because the copies are not real.

But if a person uses fake papers in this country, they can be busted for a fraudulent act.

Police occasionally raid shops and factories selling inexpensive, counterfeit commercial items, but usually only in response to a corporation's complaint.

But when counterfeit 1,000-baht notes recently began showing up in a mysterious burst of stealth distribution, the prime minister sounded the alarm.

"Violators of the law must be prosecuted, and authorities must have clear guidelines on how to examine notes," Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva warned on Tuesday (December 23).

"All this has to be implemented immediately, otherwise it will adversely affect confidence."

During 2008, Thailand's central bank seized 11,158 fake 1,000- baht notes, 61 percent of all counterfeit currency discovered this year.

Currency counterfeiters face possible life imprisonment, while people who knowingly use fake money could receive up to 15 years in jail.

Staff from the Bank of Thailand have waded into Bangkok's markets, to show vendors how to detect fake banknotes.

Lessons are also being broadcast nationwide on television, showing stern officials pointing to large illustrations of real and fake currency, while people peer through magnifying glasses and police listen to lectures.

The informal training will be expanded to Thailand's border zones, where huge amounts of money changes hands daily during overland trade with Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia.

People are being told to examine suspect 1,000-baht notes under an ultra-violet fluorescent light, to see its glowing security features, though most people lack the "black-light" device.

Alternatively, people can feel the embossed words, "Thai government," printed in Thai script, on authentic banknotes but the subtle sensation is difficult to detect for people with calloused fingers, or on worn bills.

Easiest is to angle the paper in any light, to see a watermark silhouette of Thailand's current King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The monarch's bespectacled portrait is recognizable by most Thais, and can also be compared to his engraved youthful face which comprises one-fourth of the currency's front.

"There should not be panic at the recent news of rampant forgery of 1,000-baht banknotes, because forgeries can be avoided through simple measures," The Nation newspaper said on Wednesday (December 24).

Finance officials are insisting that all banks and ATM machines are immune from the danger.

"Banks have effective systems to detect counterfeit notes," said the Thai Bankers' Association Secretary-General, Thawatchai Yongkittikul. "Our automatic machines can distinguish the fake from the authentic.

"Any panic may upset the economy. Although the number of fake banknotes is higher now, the increase is not at a worrying level."


Richard S Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist who has reported news from Asia since 1978. He is co-author of "Hello My Big Big Honey!", a non-fiction book of investigative journalism, and his web page is

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Reese Erlich: Foreign Correspondent: Trump Plays Both Sides Against The Middle

Is he a hawk? Is he a peacenik? The President keeps us guessing . By Reese Erlich President Donald Trump has convinced Republican isolationists and hawks that he supports their views. That’s a neat trick, since the two groups hold opposing positions. ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Waiting For The Old Bailey: Julian Assange And Britain’s Judicial Establishment

On September 7, Julian Assange will be facing another round of gruelling extradition proceedings, in the Old Bailey, part of a process that has become a form of gradual state-sanctioned torture. The US Department of Justice hungers for their man. The More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Sorry Plight Of The International Education Sector

Tourism and international education have been two of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. They’re both key export industries. Yet the government response to them has been strikingly different. There has been nothing beyond a few words of ministerial condolence and a $51.6 million package (details below) to get the sector through the pandemic...

Binoy Kampmark: Google’s Open Letter: Fighting Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code

Tech giants tend to cast thin veils over threats regarding government regulations. They are also particularly concerned by those more public spirited ones, the sort supposedly made for the broader interest. Google has given us an example of this ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Trump’s Current Chances Of Re-Election

By now it seems clear that National have no fresh ideas to offer for how New Zealand could avoid the Covid-19 economic crisis. As in the past, National has set an arbitrary 30% ratio of government debt to GDP that it aims to achieve “in a decade or so,” ... More>>

The Conversation: Rogue Poll Or Not, All The Signs Point To A Tectonic Shift In New Zealand Politics

Richard Shaw AAP(various)/NZ Greens (CC-BY-SA)/The Conversation Strong team. More jobs. Better economy. So say the National Party’s campaign hoardings. Only thing is, last Sunday’s Newshub-Reid Research poll – which had support for the Labour ... More>>

The Coronavirus Republic: Three Million Infections And Rising

The United States is famed for doing things, not to scale, but off it. Size is the be-all and end-all, and the coronavirus is now doing its bit to assure that the country remains unrivalled in the charts of infection . In time, other unfortunates may well ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Altars Of Hypocrisy: George Floyd, Protest And Black Face

Be wary what you protest about. The modern moral constabulary are out, and they are assisted by their Silicon Valley friends in the Social Media club. Should you dare take a stand on anything, especially in a dramatic way, you will be found out ... More>>