Recently I was arrested in Thailand… It was not a pleasant experience but it could have been much, much worse. I believe I handled the situation as good as possible and now I am free in the streets of Bangkok.
First let me say this… I am not going to tell you what I was arrested for or talk about any specifics of the case. Yeah I know that is annoying as fuck and you only clicked on this article to get the juicy details but that’s how it has to be for now. This incident took place very recently and I don’t know if it’s 100% over. I don’t want to say the wrong thing here and dig myself a deeper hole. I’m still in Thailand so it’s best I keep my mouth shut for the time being. The reason I am writing this article is to share how I handled the situation and maybe you will find it helpful if you ever run into problems in Thailand.
Warning: I am not a lawyer. Don’t listen to my dumb ass advice.
I traveled all over Thailand for the past year and I have never had one single bad incident. No crime, no scams, no violence, no run ins with police. Not one issue. I am always quiet and humble. I mind my own business and don’t hang around with loud mouth trouble makers.
When the police stopped me I was totally surprised. Two Thai men in plain clothes wearing dark sun glasses approached me on the street and grabbed me by my shirt. One started digging into my pockets. WHAT THE FUCK!!! I pushed the guys hands off me. I thought I was getting robbed. The guys surrounded me and said they were police but I didn’t see any guns or badges. I was sure this was bullshit and they were just trying to scam me by saying they were cops. Then two more guys in street clothes joined them. They told me to calm down as they pulled out their badges and ID cards. OK, looks legit. They are cops… So what is the problem??!
I have to edit out the details of this conversation but they briefly explained why they were arresting me. After a short conversion on the street with everyone watching I was put in their car and brought to the police station. I was relieved to be there in an odd way because at least I knew they were really Thai police. I’d rather be there then some dark alley in Bangkok with these dudes. This whole situation was just a big misunderstanding and I was able to go home that night. I’m not giving you legal advice but here’s how I handled it.
1. Be apologetic. I felt I did nothing wrong but I was not about to sit there and argue with these guys. One was obviously annoyed with me for resisting already. In America I would handle the situation totally different. Just keep my mouth shut and ask for a lawyer. Here I just kept my head down and kept saying that I don’t want any problems in Thailand. I respect Thailand and the law. I am not here to cause trouble. I just kept shaking my head while looking totally confused. I’m sorry sir, I don’t know what I did wrong. I am just here for a holiday. I respect Thai laws. I am not a criminal.
2. Forget your Thai language. I know a bit of Thai but this is not the situation where I wanted to show off my skills. I wanted to be “the dumb farang who doesn’t know any better.” If you speak Thai that is a sign you have been here long enough to know how things work. I feel being new to Thailand people may cut you some slack vs someone who’s been there for years.
3. Be a good dude. What does this mean? I am always clean cut, well dressed, well spoken and humble. I am polite to everyone and I carry myself with class. All human beings judge each other but Thai people will size up a farang in three seconds and make a decision about what kind of person you are. If you rock dreads, piercings and a sleeve of tattoos that’s your right… Just understand that people are going to make certain assumptions about your lifestyle. There is a white guy in my building that tells me he is always stopped by police and randomly searched for drugs… Yeah no shit. He looks like a filthy toothless drunk with long greasy hair hanging down the back of his dirty Chang T shirt. I have never been randomly stopped like this. I’m sure my appearance helped me in this situation. One of the cops even said “Look at him! He’s not a criminal…”
Also, I have my paperwork in order. I always have a valid visa and I don’t overstay my time here. I was not carrying my passport at the time which was a huge hassle… The Police insisted on going to my apartment to see my visa… Fuck! I was worried they would turn the place upside down and steal all my valuables. They already had a wad of cash I was carrying. Thai police have a reputation for being corrupt thieves and I was nervous about this. After a short negotiation (4 hours) we all rode to my apartment together so they could see my visa. They wanted my keys but I insisted on going with them. I told them I will tell you the location if we go together.
After they searched my room and took my passport along with my wallet and some other items we got back in the car and headed back to the station… Now what??? I was thinking…. And how much is this going to cost me??!
On the ride back to the station the negotiation began… I knew I could buy my way out and honestly I would have loved for them to just pull up to the nearest ATM so I could hand them some cash and get the fuck out of that car… But I was hesitant to be that blunt about it and shortly we arrived back at the station.
POLICE: “How do you think we should fix your problem?”
ME: “Well, Sir. I would like to stay in Thailand… I love Thailand and I respect Thai law. And I don’t want to go to jail… Can I pay a fine???”
POLICE: “How much do you think you should pay? The fine is usually 50,000 baht.”
ME: “I’m sorry Sir, I do not have 50,000 baht. I am not a rich man. I can only take 10,000 baht out of my ATM.”
POLICE: “Only 10,000? (Then he started counting the cash from my wallet that he took from my room.)
That’s how the conversation ended… We sat in a small office in the police department for about 20 minutes while the officers talked to each other in Thai about what they wanted to do with me.
One officer said let him go free, he’s not a criminal. Another said let’s bring him to the ATM. The boss just sat in silence.
Then… After a few minutes he handed me the envelope with all my valuables and passport inside and said “OK, you can go home.”
DAMN I was happy to hear those words! No spending the night in jail, no court appearance and no fine! “Thank you Sir.” I held back my smiles and excitement and continued to look concerned.
I did lose some money in this situation to be honest… I can’t get into the details but I will say this…
Thai Police did not steal or extort one single baht from me. They certainly could have. I offered to pay 10,000 baht from my ATM plus the 7,500 that was in my pocket and the police officer refused it. He said, “You are not a criminal. You are not in Thailand to cause trouble and we are not here to take your money.”
I respect that. These guys were just doing their job and after a quick investigation they made their decision and I am a free man.
Not all the police here are corrupt thieves. I have heard endless stories of bribes and corruption but I must report that my experience was the exact opposite. They treated me fair and even turned down a wad of cash offered to them in a back room.
I’m sure my appearance and the way I carried myself helped me in this situation. If acted like some thug who doesn’t give a fuck they could have made things much harder (and expensive) on me.
I will continue living in Thailand but I will be even more cautious about getting into stupid situations. If you are interested in learning more details about Why I Was Arrested in Thailand you can check that link.