Bridging the difference

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Editor;

I would like to comment on your on-line report about the raid on Pattaya Bridge Club where 30 pensioners were arrested. The local and international media are full of misinformation which is understandable as the case is very confusing and most damaging to Thai tourism.

Firstly, the raid was not conducted by Pattaya police, who have in the past cleared the club of irregularity, but by the civilian officials of Banglamung district office with responsibility for licensing and registration, backed by army personnel in case we pensioners (the oldest is 84) decided to start a punch up. Once the civilian Banglamung boss ordered our arrest, as he is empowered to do, the local police had to detain us. That’s the law.

The charges against us were gambling, licence problems and breaches of a card playing act passed during the Japanese occupation of the 1940s. Our 12-hour humiliating detention has been described in detail in many media and involved fingerprinting, mugshot pictures and compulsory confessions which we were told we could rescind the following day in court. But we never went to court and were released on police bail of 5,000 baht each the following day. Yes it’s a muddle.

We are still on bail but our passports have been returned to us which is highly unusual. If, as we expect, the prosecutor clears the 30 cases, our bail money will be returned. The paperwork and bureaucracy are enormous, as ever in Thailand, so one must be patient. I was at the police station the other day to sign my mugshot pictures. Never try and hurry the Orient!

Our club organizer Jeremy Watson is in a different position. He paid 50,000 baht bail and may (or may not) face licensing charges and accusations of breaching the 1943 act. But the gambling business seems to have evaporated. He will plead not guilty and will be strongly supported by members and Khunying Chodchoy Sophonpanich, president of the South East Asian Bridge Federation and a senior figure in the Bangkok Bank. It will be months before it is clear whether the prosecution will offer evidence in court. If so, the case will drag on for years Thai-style.

I would conclude by observing that the bridge club was founded by me in 1994. I recall the very positive publicity in Pattaya Mail at that time. To say the least, it is surprising that these accusations have never been leveled at us in these 22 years. We are licensed under the Contract Bridge Association of Thailand and have passed several police inspections over the years. But then again, it was not the police who conducted this raid – a crucial point. I am reliably informed that none of our accusers knew the first thing about international duplicate bridge, played in every country in the world including North Korea.

Barry Kenyon