Stopped 3 Times In 3 Days!
I just can't understand the logic of the boys in brown persistently stopping (white) farangs in the soi 22 area. Sure, the rumour a few years ago was that they were on the lookout for drugs which is fair enough, but this has been going on for at least 4 years that I am aware of! I have to wonder just what their success rate is when it comes to targeting foreigners, especially when you consider most of their targets are genuine tourists or farang residents in the area. As most people are aware of the Kingdom's strict penalties on drugs and the reputation of the Bangkok Hilton (prison), then surely the boys in brown of that area must realise the vast majority will not partake in such activities! I'm sure any potential farang drug dealers in the area would have been dealt with long ago and the area would be a big no no to new dealers. What about soi 13? Not too far away from soi 22 but a different precinct and perhaps different policies? I don't know of anyone stopped and searched in this area, certainly not to the extent of soi 22! Surprising when you consider the rumoured activities of some ethnic groups dominating the area! <Soi 13 and soi 22 are in different police districts – Stick>
Four years ago I was stopped and searched for the first time in Thailand and as with most people this has happened to, it was a scary experience!
The biggest fear is having something planted on you. It's the first thing you think about (although I don't know of it ever happening).
At the time I was seeing a bargirl (still a good friend) and decided we should have a weekend in Jomtien. We were both a bit tipsy and got a taxi to her apartment at the bottom of soi 22, so that she could put some clothes in a bag and we could return to my room for an early start!
She went to her room and I waited outside the apartment block as I needed a smoke, the taxi driver agreed to wait around the corner in the car park as it was a narrow soi and cars needed to get past. I had just lit a cigarette when 2 of the boys in brown slowly rode past me on a Honda click, They both looked me up and down as they passed but did not stop and continued around the corner and out of sight!
Although I had nothing to be concerned about, I was on unfamiliar ground at the time and was hoping my girlfriend wouldn't take too long. 2 minutes later I had 2 flashlights beaming in my face, the cops had parked up and come back to me. At the time I had no idea of the protocol or procedures of what constitutes a legal / illegal search in Thailand on a foreigner. It was dark, I was alone, half drunk and there were 2 of them. I was out of my comfort zone and my thoughts of a potential "plant" seemed a realistic possibility.
I know now that what followed was a totally illegal search. My ID / passport was demanded, my wallet was demanded and searched, their hands were in my pockets, I was asked what I was doing in the area and told them I was waiting for my girlfriend. I remained calm and they left.
My girlfriend returned and we got in the waiting taxi. I told her what had just happened and she said don't worry about it, forget about it, the police stop everyone (?!). The taxi driver said if you not do wrong, everything ok mai pen rai! The taxi left the car park but then stopped a little into the soi. I thought it was for traffic but then he rolled down his window. He had been stopped by police, flashlights beamed through the windows on to us in the rear of the car. My door opened and through the glare of the lights we were told to get out! It was the same police that had searched me 5 minutes ago. I couldn't believe it!
My girlfriend's bag was emptied on the boot of the taxi and she was searched by one of them. The other asked me for my passport which I showed him and stated that he had just searched me! He gave it back and then started to search the back of the car where we had been sitting!
Now this is the scariest part of the whole situation. The taxi driver was not asked to get out of the car, nor was he searched! If he had anything illegal on him and feared a search, he could have easily thrown it on to the back seat, which was thoroughly searched!
The next day my girlfriend said she thought they were fake police (?) because real police don't ride a Honda Click so I asked why she let them search us? I can't be sure she said!
So, we got to Jomtien, had an enjoyable 2 days and returned to Ekamai station, where I was searched for 3rd time in 3 days. I had to look up because I was sure there was a big helium balloon above me with an arrow and the words search me on it! However, this search was carried out legally and politely. Our rucksack was searched on request, our pockets were not searched and we were thanked for our co-operation! Apparently if you are carrying a rucksack it will increase the likelihood of a search, especially at Ekamai Bus Station.
That was 4 years ago and I haven't been searched since, which is more down to my avoiding certain areas than luck. I usually dress smart, shirt, trousers, shoes, but that does not eliminate discriminating searches. Anyone is a target (read white farang).
I recently spoke to a policeman who is a friend of a friend that owns a street bar (soi 5-7 side). He rides an official police boxer and said it is not correct for an officer to be riding an unmarked motorcycle whilst on duty (interesting point my girlfriend made).
One thing that is certain is that many of these stoppers fear any farang connection to their superiors which you clearly demonstrated and which to me questions their initial motives. Surely their actual presence should serve as a deterrent? However, it seems the less information they can obtain from someone provides them with the uncertainty to proceed into the unknown!
3 times in 3 days, wow! I have heard rumours about the police perhaps not being real cops and in this country, sigh, you just never know. Yep, the Ekamai Bus Station was a hot spot for a while.