One of the most unusual and fascinating displays in Bangkok is at the Museum of Counterfeit Goods located at Tilleke & Gibbins law firm. Here you can learn more about the problems the country is facing when tackling forgery, and even learn how to spot a fake yourself. Sadly, Thailand is well known for the problems it has with counterfeit goods; you only have to walk along Silom Road to find fake DVDs, Khao San for imitation Ray-Bans or Nana for bogus pharmaceuticals. A trip here can change your opinion about the damage that counterfeit goods can inflict.
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For many tourists, buying knock-offs is an essential part of a trip to Thailand, but they often think that it is only big corporations that they are harming. Given that the work is all performed illegally with no checks by the government or safety rules – it is harmful for both those manufacturing the products and those who buy them. One of the most horrific things attached to the counterfeit industry is the treatment of the workers producing the goods, which sometimes includes child labour. There are also plenty of products that are also harmful for the health of the user, including imitation medicine, make-up and powdered baby milk formula.
When walking around the museum there are plenty of unexpected goods amongst the T-shirts and sunglasses. Some of the fake goods seem absurd, coffee, biscuits, even washing powder. The products have been marked with either an F or a G to help visitors discern between which are fake and which are genuine. There are different groups of products: fakes which replicate the original and imitations, where they use the same colours and a similar name but aren’t an exact reproduction. Sometimes it is very easy to tell, and sometimes almost impossible.
Car parts have also been an issue that Tilleke & Gibbins have had to deal with. Merchants will sell brakes and wheel covers at only slightly less than the cost of the genuine product to dupe customers into purchasing them. It sent a shiver down my spine to imagine my loved ones in a car with parts that hadn’t even passed basic safety tests.
Seeing all these products in one room really gives you an idea of the scale of counterfeiting in Asia, and we were lucky enough to be shown around the museum by Hassana Chira-aphakul, an attorney-at-law who works for Tilleke & Gibbins. She explained that the real problem is enforcing the anti-counterfeiting laws. These products are not only sold by the side of the road, but also in shops around the country, and it is almost impossible to stop so many goods flooding the market from China. The firm coordinates with the police as well as the brands involved, but there is still a long way to go to even start making a dent in the issue.
There has been plenty said on both sides about counterfeit goods in Thailand, but a trip here really opens your eyes to the harrowing stories behind the situation. Being shown round the museum by a knowledgeable member of staff enhances the experience, you are sure to have many questions and they are happy to explain. The museum was opened for this purpose, to educate people and encourage them to see beyond the cheap prices. The best way to get to the museum is to take a taxi, it is only 20 minutes from central Bangkok but there is no train stop nearby. Make sure to book an appointment at least 24 hours in advance.
Museum of Counterfeit Goods
- Opening Hours: Open to the general public on Mondays at 14:00 and Thursdays at 10:00. Visits are by appointment only; please give at least 24 hours' notice.
- Address: Supalai Grand Tower, 26th Floor, 1011 Rama 3 Road, Chongnonsi, Yannawa 10120
- Tel: +66 2653 5555