Traffic Infringements and Paying the Boys in Brown

I've had two run ins with the law since buying my car in April. My first traffic infringement was on a Sunday trip to Lop Buri with Brenton and friends. On the previous Wednesday night I had noticed my front license plate was missing - stolen! Some background: when you buy a new car in Thailand you get issued with temporary red license plates. These are until the dealership completes your registration documents, which could take between 2 and 4 weeks (so they say). Then you are supposed to get the official white license plates. There are all sorts of rumoured restrictions on the red plates (cannot drive at night with red plates; cannot drive to other provinces; must record a log book of all trips) but I didn't listen to any of them. Front view of Steve's Car I'd had the red plates for 4 or 5 weeks when I noticed the front plate missing. About a day or two earlier I had noticed the front plate was not attached too well. I wasn't sure if it had always been like that or had become loose. I didn't do anything about it, thinking I'll be getting my new white plates soon. On the Wednesday night the plate was gone. Closer inspection revealed it had been pulled or jimmied off. Some of the plastic on the front panel had been broken so the plate would come off easier. What do I do - report it stolen to the police? Or just forget about it and get new red plates? Or wait for the white plates? Well I thought I'd see the car dealer the next day to get advice. Unfortunately, it wasn't easy explaining the situation to the Toyota dealer. When I arrived and said something about red plates, they immediately assumed I was asking about where are my white plates? So they start telling me a few excuses for the delays, and said the white plates will arrive next week. It took me a bit of effort to explain that wasn't my immediate concern - what do I do about the stolen red plate? The conclusion was: don't worry about it. Drive around with just one plate until I get the white plates next week. They will fix the hole where the plate attaches for free. Oh, and I will lose half of my 2000 Baht deposit (for not returning one of the red plates). So a couple of days later, Saturday, and only two days before receiving the white plates, I'm driving on the Expressway from Mo Chit to Rangsit heading to Lop Buri. I come to one of the toll gates, a common place for police to pull people over for all sorts of things (speeding, invalid registrations, no license plates). And of course the pulled me over. After the first cop realised I didn't speak Thai he got his mate, who then explained that its illegal to drive without a license plate and he'd write me a ticket and I'd need to pay at a 500 Baht fine at the local Police Station. Having heard from my friends what to do in such a situation, I said could I pay now? After some spluttering he said ok. I got out 300 Baht and he politely reached in through the window and slipped it into his pocket. I got the hell out of there. The biggest concern was getting stopped again during the day - that was 30km's into a 300km trip. The next occasion was much simpler. I did a left turn onto a two lane side road and wanted to enter the 3 lane main highway. So I did. However just as I entered, behind a wall (of a U-turn bridge) were a couple of boys in brown pulling people over for changing lanes across a solid white line. Fair enough. This time I offered up 100 Baht, but he said 200. I'm slowly learning. So they are my two infringements so far, costing a total of 500 Baht and avoiding any tickets and trips to Police Stations. Both cases (against me) were valid, so I've got nothing to complain about. Of course I'm very nervous when seeing police on the road now, especially as they wait at toll gates waving cars down. Lets see how I go over the next 6 months.