A guy staying in my dorm – who was apparently set up by a cop and a taxi driver in a cannabis deal sting – just got out after spending two nights in a Bangkok police station cell.
John* and a mate were heading home from a night out when they decided to score some weed from the taxi driver.
Seconds after buying less than three grams of the sticky icky for B1000 (Thais apparently pay a tenth of the price), the cab was pulled over by the motorbike cop.
“He didn’t even look at the taxi driver or my mate,” John said. “He went straight for me.
“I stashed it down my pants but he searched me and found it straight away and cuffed me.”
There are no “probable cause” laws in Thailand. Police can search anyone any time.
According to Thai Law Forum, if a cop even suspects someone of taking a drug they can request authorisation to test the suspect.
Testing positive for a Class V drug carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to B20,000 while the penalty for refusing to take a test is up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to B10,000.
The pair – still rolling drunk at this point – thought the whole thing was a joke.
As the taxi followed the motorbike cop to the Khao San Road police station John posed for a few photos in the cuffs sporting a big grin.
“I tried to offer the cop a bribe but he wasn’t having any of it,” John said.
In Thailand cannabis is a Class V (the least serious category) drug but possession still carries a maximum penalty of five years jail and/or a fine of up to B100,000 ($A3,100).
As John sobered up while being processed at the police station the situation began to seem a lot less amusing.
He ended up spending two nights in the filthy, bug-ridden police station lockup, sleeping on the floor using a water bottle as a pillow.
“I kept waking scratching all the bug bites,” he said. “The toilets were filthy. Pretty much everything was broken.”
He met another Dutch guy who was in the same situation after being caught with half a gram of pot and several Thais who had been locked up for minor vagrancy offences.
“I made friends with a few of them,” he said. “I gave away a couple of my bracelets and they gave me some food and ciggies.”
It wasn’t the first time John had had bad luck trying to get high in South East Asia.
He had been sold bags of tea leaves several times in Vietnam and a cube of tobacco in Phuket.
John decided to pay an English-speaking Thai lawyer B40,000 ($A1250) which included a B5000 ($A150) fine and B10,000 ($A300) bail.
He said he could have tried to represent himself in court and potentially only paid the fine but he would have had to stay in jail for an indefinite amount of time.
He may also have had to pay for an interpreter.
He said having a lawyer meant getting to the head of the long queue in court.
“I couldn’t have handled being in there not knowing when I was going to get out,” he said.
“It could have been a couple of days or a week. I just wouldn’t know.”
John said he didn’t have any regrets.
“A small part of me is glad it happened. It was an experience. I’m glad to be out though.”
“It was a rough two days but it was only two days.
“At the start it was scary because I didn’t know what was going on, but once I knew what was going on it made it a lot easier.”
He said the most bizarre aspect was that after posting bail he has now effectively been sentenced to stay 48 days in Thailand.
“Because I’ve paid bail I have to ‘serve my sentence’ but don’t have to be in jail. I just can’t leave the country,” he said.
On February 22 he will get back his passport and B10,000 bail. No criminal record. No black mark on his passport. He can even stay in the country if he wants. That’s the end of it.
“It’s just like an official bribe. Instead of bribing the cop, I have to bribe the government not to put me in jail,” he said.
“Fucking weird country, man.”
* Names have been changed to protect the guilty.