This letter was sent to me from a reader regarding the recent crackdown on drink driving in Thailand. You shouldn’t be driving drunk especially in Pattaya so if you get caught you really can’t complain about the repercussions. In the letter it says that no assistance or translations were provided which under Thai law as I understand it is not what is supposed to happen but I can understand, doing a crackdown on drink driving in Pattaya would result in a lot of arrests and the police department here wouldn’t have the resources nor the time to deal with everyone. One thing you never want to do is get arrested in Thailand for anything and if you have got caught for anything make sure you can do whatever you can to get out of it before you get taken to the police station. Once your at the station no matter how much a bribe or who you think you know, nothing or no one can help you.
A word of warning for those farang who may occasionally have a drink
or two, and then drive a motorbike or car in Pattaya.
As of Friday 13th April Pattaya Police are actively using breath
testing to test for people over the drink driving limit of 0.05. They
have digital breath testing units they can setup and will stop all
traffic, as they do when they have a blitz on.
On Friday 13th April at 2am until about 5am they setup on the corner
of 2nd Road and Pattaya Thai (Pattaya South Road), where they often
sit looking for people not wearing a helmet. They were stopping all
bikes (didn’t see any cars but they were on the road blocking most
traffic) farang and Thai. They were breath testing all – not sobriety
test, straight onto the digital breath testing units. The units have a
digital display and a printer. Once you blow if the reading is about
0.050 then they print out the reading and you are arrested on the
spot. You will then be taken to the Pattay Soi 9 watchhouse and locked
up in the holding cells.
Your phone will be confiscated and you are not allowed a phone call or
to contact anyone. Farang’s are locked up with Thai’s (men and women)
in the one lockup in the police station. Not air conditioned, very
basic, no seats, just concrete floors, the toilet is behind a waist
high concrete barrier and is a bowl with no seat, just a hose and a
bucket. This doubles as the shower area, if you were so inclined or
happened to be locked up for many days like some of the farang over
stay people in there. No water or food is provided, you need someone
on the outside to bring you that – and they are generally allowed to
hand it through to you. On Friday about 18 farangs were detained
(Australians, Americans, Italians, Iran, Israel, India, Swiss -
holiday makers and long stayers) and 10+ thai’s for drink driving and
other offences. If you don’t have your passport – it’s more difficult
- they need to be able to positively ID you to begin processing the
You are generally not told what will happen or what the process is -
if you have someone on the outside then they can get some of the story
and relay it, but generally you do not know what will happen or when.
And if you are told – it’s likely to change, and of course “just wait
10 minutes” really means 2+ hours at least.
Once they have processed all the paperwork, and you have signed some
documents in Thai (no translation available, no legal advice, just “is
this you? sign here), you will be finger printed (in the cells, Thai
long stay prisoners do the finger printing). This took from 5am until
midday of waiting in the holding cells at the watch house. Then when
everyone is processed you are ready to be moved to the Privincial
Court House at Jomtien. To move you all the prisoners (Farang and
Thai) are handcuffed and chained together in one long line. Then
marched down to a paddy wagon, all squeezed in, some standing for the
drive from Soi 9 to the court house at Jomtien. You are then unloaded
into the holding area in the court house. The holding area is under
the building, not air conditoned, You are unshackled, you have to take
your shoes off and sit on the concrete floor. No seating, no smoking,
no standing. Sit on the floor with all the other Thai’s waiting to be
processed. The only toilet available is very bad, there are rubber
boots outside that you need to wear because the floor is 1cm deep in
urine and the smell is so bad you have to hold your breath (it makes
the toilet in the watch house look luxurious). The whole area wreaks
of urine as the other holding cells (for those Thai’s being held for
more serious crimes) just has open urinals. During this process – no
communication, no advice, no phone calls allowed, you are told “just
wait” … if you have someone on the outside who knows where you are
they can bring you water and snacks, you can also buy some thai food
that is sold by a local kitchen. The farangs were processed in the
last court sitting of the day, after sitting on the floor from midday
until 6pm, signing various court documents during the afternoon.
No translation is provided into any language, all documents are in
Thai, no legal advice provided, no explanations – very little english
spoken, only enough to get you to sign documents and tell you “sit
down”, “stand up”, “come here”. If you dont sign the document you will
not be processed – there is no option. In the court room there is no
visitor gallery, no visitors allowed, no legal representation, no
translation available. About 40 people are processed at the same time,
sitting on wooden benches or on the floor. The judge (a woman in this
case) speaks NO english (she even had to get help from someone to read
out the amounts of the fines in English). Each person with a related
charge has their name read out in turn, then stands, the judge then
addresses everyone in Thai, then decides on a penalty and reads that
out in Thai. For drink driving a motorbike you can expect a fine of
2500 to 2700 baht … Thai and farang the same. There was no
discrimination, positive or negative – you get treated like a Thai.
Once all have been sentenced you have to pay the fine to the clerk of
the court, on the spot. If you couldn’t pay you would be locked up
again until you can pay. If you have someone on the outside you are
permitted to liaise with them for them to get you the money. You may
also be escorted to your accommodation to get money as a last resort.
You will now be relieved that it is all over and ready to walk free,
as you have been watching all the Thai’s do once they are sentenced
… but wait, there is more!!
If you are a farang you now need to have your passport checked for any
possible visa violations – overstay’s, back to back tourist visa’s
etc. However at 6pm on a Saturday night (even worse on a Songkran long
weekend) there are no immigration officials available to check your
passports. So it’s back to the Soi 9 lockup. The trip back to the
lockup is sitting packed into the back of a police utility truck, all
sitting around the edge packed into the open tray (interesting lack of
safety concern given you have just been booked for an equally
dangerous driving offence). You will then be locked up again until the
police can arrange for immigration to check your passport. None of
this is told to you in advance, you are told as it happens, and after
thinking you are processed and free, being put back into the holding
cells at Soi 9 is a shock – particularly then being told it’s likely
you will be held until the next day (which is a Sunday – so perhaps 2
but Monday is a public holiday in Thailand – so perhaps 3 days).
Fortunately through some furious negotiations by some Thai supporters
of some of the farangs how had been assisting, those farangs who had
been able to provide a passport to police were advised they would be
let out immediately, and then return at a later date for the
immigration check (the police will hold your passport). This was at
11:00pm (after returning from the court about 9pm), the farangs with
the passports were then called out and released from the cells one at
a time. The group being released is then detained further in an office
while the head of police decides how to handle the processing, you
then have your passport photocopied (main page and visa page), you
were given the copy and asked to return to the police station the
following week to meet immigration, and collect you phone, passport
and motorbike at that time (assuming no immigration violations). Only
then, after the 18 hour ordeal are you free to leave.
NO “tourist police” were present or available at any time during this
process (not that I believe they would be able to help anyway – but
interesting in their absence the entire time considering how high
profile they like to be on walking st).
Also – don’t think you can flash a few baht and get let off. I’m aware
of a number if discreet attempts directed to the police at the testing
station of amounts up to 3k baht which were politely returned.
This story if from my personal experience, I was riding a scooter. I
have lived in Thailand for 5+ years, I speak reasonable Thai, I have a
Thai drivers license, I had 10k baht in cash on me, I had Thai helpers
on the outside who know police and were able to plead my case to all
levels of police. None of this helped me get processed any faster or
dealt with any better. Not that would expect it too – but just as
advice for those farang who think they are “special”.
I have no complaints – I was guilty. In future I will be catching a taxi.
There is a new police chief in town – and he is cracking down on drink driving.