Saturday, May 10, 2014

Beware of rampant pickpockets at Pratunam, Bangkok

Latest Update and hopefully the last:

12th of April 2015

Another colleague's wife fell victim to bag slasher in Pratunam Market. See: Beware of bag slashers in Pratunam Market 

UPDATE as of: 

18th of January 2015

My colleague became another victim at Pratunam. See: Thou shalt not wear cargo shorts at Pratunam

12th of May

According to the Filipino owner of the cargo forwarder where I am sending our merchandises, one guy was beaten black and blue yesterday by some African guys. He was caught stealing from one of them. She narrated this to me upon learning that I was victimized by these bastards. Good for him. Moreover, this morning an old small guy was trailing me when we entered the morning market beside Indra Square. He was keeping a safe distance until a guy approached me with an empty metal trolley used for carrying their goods while all of a sudden a crowd was starting to merge around me. I remember that was the same modus they used to me two days back. I turned around and walked straight to the small guy and look at his eyes directly. He lowered his head and turned back while I snaked my way through the emerging crowd. I took refuge inside one of the shops and let the guy with empty trolley passed. I believe that if they notice that you are aware of their plan and willing to act decisively they would simply call it a day and leave you.

This afternoon when the Thai helper of the cargo forwarder fetched our merchandises from our hotel he inquired why I am sending a small size cargo. Upon learning that I lost some money he also narrated that one of their regular clients lost 2,000 USD and passport last year. Their client's bag was slashed in the same place where I was victimized. The poor guy cried in front of them.

Since the incident I have become fully aware of those people around me in the last two days of our shopping in Pratunam area. I have seen shoppers having eye-contacts with each other while some of them were just loitering around and possibly scanning the place for victim. 

This morning I bid goodbye to my 12,500 THB and 12,000 Yen while shopping at Pratunam, Bangkok City.

The story goes like this, at around 7 am I changed my 300 USD from ASMA Money Exchange center operated by Indians near Pratunam Park Hotel. It was the only exchange center opened at that time in that area.

My wife and daughter were sorting and surveying some shops at the "morning market" just beside Indira Square while I followed them a few meters away.

I noticed that a fat lady tried to push me thrice. The third time she was in front of me and trapped me along with the "crowds." I had no option but to jump out from the crowd. It was suffocating. I was surprised why all of a sudden these people were around me. After my so-called escape somebody pulled my shoulder/sling bag thus I was left with no option but to pull it harder and willing to go for a fight. Fortunately my shoulder bag was released with the zipper opened; the fat lady even had the guts to trail me some time. I checked immediately our passports and to my relief they were still intact but my 600 THB inside the side pocket with Velcro lock was gone. I let it go since it was a paltry amount compared to our passports. We continued shopping until B gallery fashion Arena. After we have consumed our 300 USD I told my wife and daughter that I would return back to the hotel to leave our goods and exchange my remaining 700 USD at the same money exchange center.

In short I got my remaining 700 USD converted to THB at the same money changer. I spliced the amount and tucked the 12,000 THB with my extra 12,000 Yen in my cargo short left pocket secured with a button while I put the remaining amount in another pocket. I reversed the position of my shoulder bag so that the zipper was facing towards my belly. I returned back to my wife and daughter and continued shopping for our online shop.

Unbeknownst to me I was already targeted by a group of pickpockets and it seemed they have an idea that I was carrying some money with me. While in Pratunam I always ask my wife and daughter to stay ahead of me so I can always check them. In doing this I was trapped by two ladies in front of me while another two people were behind me and another person in both of my sides. All in all, at least 6 people ganged me up and I couldn't even see my pockets. I secured my bag and another pocket which contains my wallets and tried to jump out from the dragnet. I barely made it when I noticed that my left cargo short's pocket was already unbuttoned. My 12,000 Yen and 12,000 THB was gone. At least I saved my wallet and the 10,000 THB inside the other pocket. Had I allowed the situation to prolong a few more seconds I am sure that I would be left with an empty bag and pockets. I have been shopping for around two years in the same area and that was the first time I fell victim to this kind of modus operandi by those bastards.

ASMA Exchange

The circumstances of being identified and robbed twice by different group of people were pretty surprising unless somebody has tipped them about my situation. I don't want to jump into conclusion but in Manila, there are many instances of proven collusion between money changers and some syndicates or lawless individuals. I never returned to this money exchange shop anymore.

This is a warning to all would be shoppers before you go to Pratunam, Bangkok City. Stay closely in group and if the crowd started to become uncomfortable take refuge in any shop along the road and let the crowd dissipate before returning back to the street. Make sure also that you hug your bag always and don't place your money and valuables in one place. Trust me, when this thing happens the hardest thing to experience is the denial period. There is always a tendency to assume that this incident happens to other people only.

It can't be denied that these sub-humans who prey on the innocence also exist in Bangkok City. What is so disappointing is the lack of police visibility in that area considering that this place is known to be the center of wholesale market in Thailand. Our hotel's staff who knew me since I am a regular guest told me that there was no police precinct in this area and these incidences have occurred frequently recently including bag slashing. Moreover, one of our favorite shop owners upon learning I lost around 500 USD to pickpockets also attested that many of her clients have been victimized as well and some of them were so unlucky to lose their passports. The culprits according to her were mainly outsiders such as Cambodians who have flocked to Bangkok to victimize unsuspecting shoppers especially foreigners. She added that the worse is yet to come after integration of Asean markets next year. She apologized for what happened to us.

After the incidents I left all our passports, wallets and valuables inside the hotel's safety lock while the bulk of our budget is now hidden safely within my body and some amounts safely tucked in my wife's double liner shoulder bag. They need to undress me first before they can touch another THB.

The amount I lost wasn't enough to build ill feelings to Thai people. I have worked with them in offshore in Abu Dhabi and I knew how hard working and family oriented these people. I have lots of good memories with them.

Hence, if you are planning to buy clothes for your own use better shop at nearby Platinum Mall rather than risk your money at Pratunam Market. Otherwise stay alert and prepare for the worse.

After searching the net it seems that rampant pickpockets and bag slashing are normal occurrences in Pratunam.

See related post: Tips to avoid pickpockets in Pratunam