On a wet Sunday afternoon in Bangkok waiting for the rain to stop, I take shelter in the doorway of a small shopping arcade on the Khao San Road waiting for my wife to finish her shopping.
This was once an area described as a paradise for backpackers with cheap hotels and shops. The area is now popular with a diverse group of tourists, who are interested in browsing the market stalls looking for trinkets and souvenirs to buy. It is not uncommon to see vendors from the stalls and shops touting for business. I see one tout trying to sell grilled scorpions!
I overhear a tout talking to two middle aged Australian men to see if they were interested in buying fake identification cards. The Australians are interested and are asked to follow the tout to his office. I still have ample time to meet my wife, so I ask the tout if I could also take a look. The tout is more than happy to have another potential customer tag along.
We follow the tout along a dark narrow alley at the back of the Khao San Road. The alley eventually leads to a building that looks like a hostel. Middle-aged women are cleaning empty rooms and doing the laundry.
We are brought into a dimly lit room, which could be a storage room, with cardboard boxes everywhere. The heat is unbearable and we start to perspire. The sound of raindrops on the corrugated roofing is all we can hear inside this windowless room. The door is left open to give a little air.
The tout looks at us and gives a warm smile knowing that we all seem apprehensive. He then takes out an album from of one of the boxes in the room. The album has pages of various documents of university degrees, driving licences from every continent, and pages and pages of identification cards. One of the Australians is keen on buying a Victoria State driving licence, but decides not to after noticing that it looks very different from the real licence. Instead, he decides on an Interpol(International Criminal Police Organization) identification card. He negotiates the price down to 1000 Baht(about 23 British Pounds). He writes his full name, date of birth and identification number onto a torn piece of paper. The tout takes the newly appointed Interpol Officer’s photograph with a piece of blue cardboard as the background. He is to return 2 hours later to receive his new identity. The tout then looks over towards the other Australian and me, asking if we were interested in any of the products. We both decline and explain to the him that we are just browsing. He doesn’t continue his sales pitch any longer and is quite content with the transaction he has just made with the other customer. We are then guided back along the narrow alley to the main road of Khao San.
I wish the Australians good luck, and arrive back in time to meet my wife. Later on in the day, the two Australians spot me at the taxi stand. They are thrilled to show me the Interpol identification card. It looks genuine at a glance with it’s logo and official title printed on a PVC card. At a closer look, you can see the poor ink quality and misspelt words. However, the Australian seems happy with his new identification and makes a few jokes about hunting down criminals in his new role as an Interpol Officer. They walk away looking for suspects on the Interpol list, or perhaps just to get another cold beer.