To judge from compiled press reports, over 3,500 people, Thais and foreigners, have been arrested in police raids for illegal drinking and partying in Thailand during 2021. The last few weeks have seen an upsurge in the light of extra regulations, notably a national curfew from 21.00-04.00 hours and additional regulations from some provincial governors to outlaw consuming alcohol if more than one person is guzzling or imbibing. That’s a really tough one.
Virtually all the raids have taken place in licensed premises, such as clubs or hotels, and all but one seem to have involved foreigners as well as Thais. The sole exception was apparently the raid last May at the Faros “let’s get steamy” sauna in Bangkok where only Thai nationals have been identified at an alleged chemsex orgy. Like many other graveyard-shift raids, this one occurred after midnight on five star luxurious premises, belying a common myth that the police always steer clear of places frequented by the wealthy. Only sometimes.
The August 20 raid in Pattaya on the area in front of the Tree Tops area in Soi Buakhao was a much humbler affair involving 21 people of mixed nationalities. The area is backpacker-dominated and houses much of the cash-conscious British expat market, or what remains of it. The police action was unusual since it occurred before 21.00, the curfew hour, but group drinking at any time is forbidden under a welter of national and local orders.
Dave, a British retiree who understandably does not wish to be identified, said he and several others had assumed drinking was OK out of curfew hours as he and his friends had been to the same bar most nights in the past two weeks without incident. He had also been assured by a bar worker that a raid was out of the question as the authorities did not want bad publicity when tourism was at an all-time low. This belief that certain venues have an unofficial certificate of exemption from prosecution runs through all the raid sagas as the unfortunates look for an exit strategy.
The retiree said everyone had been piled into police transport and taken to a large room on the top floor of Pattaya police station – not a cell – where those arrested were processed on production of a copy of their passports or a driving licence. He had signed a paper in Thai which he assumed was a guilty plea and had since paid a 40,000 baht court fine. He was not sure what had happened to those who could not prove their identity. He had heard one had been detained in Nong Plalai prison as he refused to confirm his identity.
Dave added he was not being deported as “the detention center is full” but was warned that the immigration bureau had designated him as a “marked man” whilst police retained his passport. In any case, he added, he would not be returning to Thailand, a common reaction in his situation. He believed the core reason why people break the booze laws is that they are totally fed up with nothing to do. “I didn’t come to Pattaya to be a wandering extra in a zombie movie,” he concluded.
Amongst other Pattaya exposures was the raid last month on the Bamboo Beach Club on Pattaya’s “dark side” which netted 66 unfortunates of several nationalities. A Frenchman later told Pattaya Mail his defence had been that he was just visiting a friend, who used it as a base for fishing, and was surprised to have been involved in the mass arrests. However, he had changed his plea to guilty when he had discovered he would need 100,000 baht for bail with an eventual court hearing some months down the road. He had been fined by the court 50,000 baht, he said, with no other penalties so far as he yet knew.
Other alleged farang excuses for illegal drinking during arrests have included the claim by a Swedish man who was “looking for my wife,” whilst a British guy said he had read on the internet that only spirits were banned and not the bottle of Tiger beer he was defiantly holding. Another British man claimed he was exempt as he had a “special” visa which turned out to be the nondescript 60 days Covid extension granted to any tourist. Perhaps the most bizarre explanation was offered by the expat who said he was just drinking soda water and “waiting for the show to start.” Well, best to remember that the police and the courts have heard it all before.