A couple of years ago a then Deputy Prime Minister decided to lead a raid against Pantip Plaza (a large shopping mall specialising in IT equipment and software) in the interests of suppress vice and intellectual property crimes. This is a place where sellers come up to you, grab your arm and ask “Want to buy dirty video?” If you want a pirated copy of the latest Windows software there’s no need for such an indignity, you just need to look at the comprehensive displays. The Minister’s raid was a tad unsuccessful: only a single pornographic VCD and a couple of bags of marijuana were found. Doubtless the vendors had been tipped off about the impending raid and the illegal material spirited swiftly away.
Counterfeit goods are freely available in Thailand: it’s far easier to by a dodgy copy of Microsoft Windows or Office than to buy the real thing; stalls lining Sukhumwit road openly sell fake Calvin Klein and Adidas sportswear alongside counterfeit pills designed to put a smile on a man’s face and a spring in his step; fake car parts and pharmaceuticals abound. Despite the dent in Microsoft’s profits and the risk of the sick taking worthless (or positively harmful) pills, what little has been done about the problem has been largely ineffective.
Now that America’s US Trade Representative has started rattling Thailand’s cage about intellectual property rights the government has responded with a raid on Patpong (an area famous for its sleazy nightclubs where women, in the absence of male companionship, perform strange acts with ping-pong balls) where this is a well-known for its night market stuffed to the gills with counterfeit goods. About fifty officials from the Commerce Ministry raided the stalls of the night market, seizing fake items and arresting the vendors for selling pirated goods. The vendors weren’t too happy:
[Picture from Thai Rath newspaper]
About 200 vendors threw stones and bottles and attacked the officials with wooden sticks.
The officials weren’t too happy, either, and fired their guns into the air.
Yet another nail in the coffin of the Thai tourist industry.
And we are told that such raids will be repeated every two days from now on.
As an aside, I just wonder if American companies are really losing out from piracy in Thailand and other developing countries? The price of genuine designer goods here is way beyond the means of the vast, vast majority of the population. The designer companies aren’t actually losing out on sales, and nobody is fooled into thinking that the fakes are genuine so the companies’ reputations aren’t harmed. In fact, the profiles of the companies are raised by the sale of counterfeits. Eventually, when people become affluent enough they will want to switch to the real deal. Until then Uncle Sam is simply shooting himself in the foot.