As he prepares the papers, I reveal what I really care about. “Do you have passports?” I ask in a nervous voice. “Yes,” he mumbles. “But it’s gonna be really expensive.” 120,000 Baht, almost 2700 Euro, is said to cost one copy. The costs seem to be independent of nationality.
Only after the price information Sonchai asks me: “Which country?” “Germany,” I say. “Feasible,” Sonchai says, “are you in trouble at home?” “I don’t want to talk about that,” I answer. “Sorry, it’s none of my business.”
But first he had to ask around whether there was a German passport on the market. This could take up to two days. Within seven days, the photo, name and date of birth could be changed as desired.
It sounds frighteningly uncomplicated. I’ll check with the German criminal investigators. “The Federal Criminal Police Office knows that in Thailand, especially Bangkok, stolen German identity documents are being traded,” a spokeswoman for the authority wrote to me. They work together with the police in Thailand. “However, the Thai authorities are responsible for the investigation on the spot.”
From the watercolor and identity card booth I have a view of the street. A police officer patrols up and down. The police station is only a few hundred meters away. Sonchai’s business isn’t bothered by this.
Some tourists sell their passports
I’ll have to wait an hour for my fake BahnCard 100 to be ready. Meanwhile, Sonchai tells me more about his business model. Not all his passports have been stolen, he says. Some also bought – by Thailand tourists in financial difficulties. As a rule, he pays 40,000 baht each, around 900 euros.
He just got a Canadian passport this way. If I could also do something with it, my new identity would go much faster, Sonchai promises. I pretend to think about it. And must inevitably think back to the conversation with Honorary Consul Naumann.
“Few tourists who lose their passports remember that criminals can do business with them,” he told me – and gave me a few tips right away: Never deposit your passport as a deposit with a car or motorcycle rental company, even if this is often required in Thailand. He has often experienced situations in which the pass was not given back to its holder.
Also: save a color scan of your own passport online. This is the fastest way to obtain new documents in case of loss. “The quality of black-and-white copies is often too poor.”
This is by no means the case with my new BahnCard. To me, the little card Sonchai hands me after one hour seems deceptively real. But he has even more for me: “I could already find a German passport, on Phuket. Do you want it?” I’ll have to think about that, I say. Sonchai hands me a note with his phone number. “We’ll be in touch,” he says. “Hopefully not,” I think and disappear.