Crazy Experience in Phuket

Hi everyone. Just want to share my experience in Phuket last night which I think was truly shocking to say the least. I hope to share this as a warning to others traveling to Thailand and also get everyone's view on what they would have done better.

My wife and I came to Phuket for a quick trip leaving our kids with in laws in Malaysia. So after Walking around Bangala road late at night and we each had one beer at the bar. We headed to our hotel up north on the hired motorbikes (why is taxi so expensive in Phuket?) After a few windy turns, we were stopped by the police. I was feeling comfortable at the start as I know I only had one beer and I assumed that the similar drinking limit applies in Thailand. However after they asked me to blow into the breathalyser, the red light came on indicating high. So they took us to a little station on the side of the road.

We were really shocked at this stage as I have never been caught drink driving/riding before anywhere. I asked for the breathalyser three more times and the same result came up. So the officer told me I need to go jail for the night and appear in court tomorrow and get fined 10000 Bhat which is around AU$450.00. The officer spoke poor English but also managed to show me what he is saying using Google translate. I kept on asking questions and at one stage he went to ask for his "big boss".

The "big boss" came in some what just repeated what the other officer said. At one point I asked them what's the alcohol blood percentage which makes it "high" on the breathalyser as I also noticed that there is low and zero readings. They couldn't tell me straight away but did the test himself which shows zero. I then asked him if I can pay fine now and not go to jail. He reluctantly said it's possible which I know at this stage they are scamming tourist. Heard this happen in Asia but never imagined it happen to myself.

A few other things worth mentioning:

  1. They took my licence and asked me to write my name on a form with no English and they didn't fill it out.
  2. They keep going in and out of the room and speak to each other quite a lot.
  3. I noticed they didn't stop all the vehicle for tests. Assuming targeting foreigners only.
  4. I told them I have flight tomorrow going back to Malaysia so I can not go to court. They asked to check itinerary which I couldn't show they as I didn't have internet.
  5. They are still overall "nice" the whole time which makes me feel calm and kept trying to talk to them.
  6. They asked my wife to go back to the hotel by herself and they didn't even bother testing her. She also had one drink so result which be the same. My wife obviously didn't want to leave in that situation.

After they said I can pay fine now. I insisted that I don't have 10,000 and showed them what's in my wallet. They didn't seem to press me on getting the money which is little weird and keep mentioning about jail and court. I use the breathalyser myself again it's now showing low after about 45 mins but they said it was high before and said I was sitting there for a long time. After a while they caught a British guy who wants to walk back to the hotel to check on his girlfriend but the officer didn't let him. I can't tell if he is drunk or not but he also said he had one beer.

Eventually the big boss told me to do one more breathalyser with another officer filming and said that if it's low then I can go. The result was low and they let us go and kept the British guy there. As shocked as I was for being "caught ", I was shocked that they let me go without paying anything.

I am wondering if anyone had similar experience before and how they went. We really enjoyed our kid free get away till this happened and it would really ruin anyone's holiday. What would you have done to get out of this kinda of situations specially in a foreign country? Be firm and insist on going to jail knowing they probably won't bother? Just pay the fine and take as lesson learnt? Not agreeing to anything they say and not corporate? Asking to speak to lawyer or the consulate?

Sorry for the long first post and I just hope it helps someone when they get caught in a similar situation. Phuket is such a beautiful holiday destination and I really hate to see people not coming here because this kind of things.

Comments

      • +8 votes

        Having lived in Thailand for 3 years and knowing how notoriously corrupt police are, there's probably a good chance the breathalyzer has been tampered with. Corruption is rife and they love targetting tourists and are very lax on the locals.

        Anyway, don't feel too bad because from the sound of it they weren't pulling you over because they are concerned about safety, it was rather to just fill their pockets.

        Thailand has a massive problem with drink driving and road deaths (it's number 2 in the world for one of the stats). Hell, you don't even need seatbelts and you can have as many people sitting in the back of a pickup truck as you want. They tried to introduce a law to to stop this but it got so much backlash that they cancelled it, because bad driving is in their nature.

        Their policing of this on local Thais is poor compared to our standards. I once didn't know my taxi driver was drunk until he pulled over to open the door and vomit before continuing my journey home. Man, sometimes my ozbargain skills are a hindrance, in hindsight should've paid for another taxi.

        • +8 votes

          Just don't forget the average salary of a average person might be $100 per week.

          If they can corrupt you $450 that's a months salary.

          Imagine how many Aussie cops would be corrupt if they could get $7k out of a tourist in one go!

          (using 75k as a cop salary for arguments sake)

        •  

          @hellohello123: you'd be surprised. I contently would be to find any.

        • +2 votes

          Pickup truck.. The US media has gotten to you!

          Having never been to Thailand or anywhere else in South East Asia (excluding Bali), I don't really have any scope of comparison to understand how similar / different places are to Australia.

          Have you ever lived, or at least travelled to other countries in that part of the world? Are there, in your opinion, any which are overall less corrupt than others, or is it impossible to say, as there are too many different areas within the country to make a fair judgement?

        •  

          @McMoots: > Pickup truck.. The US media has gotten to you!

          Not really - there are no "utes" in Thailand. They are commonly referred to as …………… pickup trucks.

        • +1 vote

          @jackspratt: Yes, that is what they are referred to locally, in Thailand, but they are still utes.

          Just like there are one or two mobile phones in the US, even though they call them cell phones.

          Same goes for chocolate (candy), soft drinks (soda) and thongs (flip flops).

          Of course different countries have their own names for things, and that's fine, but when Aussies are talking in an Australian forum, it's generally expected that we refer to things by what we know them as.

          At the end of the day it was a joke, one definitely not worth arguing about, and was irrelevant to my actual question.

          Take care of yourself, dude.

        • -1 vote

          @McMoots: they're utes to you, but pickup trucks to many other people in many other countries. thailand is heavily influenced by the US (mainly because of the late king), they even have better visa process for starting businesses etc.

          thongs go up the buttcrack not on the feet.

          and they use the word 'trash' as in rubbish bin, again, american influence.

          usually jokes are funny…

      • +10 votes

        "So after Walking around Bangala road late at night"

        Mistake number 1….

  • +22 votes

    Offer him 1000baht on the side of the road to let you go.

    • +10 votes

      This. It's very common.

    • +10 votes

      Exactly. This is the solution to this situation.

    • +24 votes

      OP got away for free, so beat your solution!

      So why post on OzB… to complain about getting let off- for free?

      • +41 votes

        If 1000 baht is the usual "cost" and OP got away for free, then they've posted this to show what a true OzBarginer they really are :P

      • +6 votes

        Because interesting and meaningful discussion

      •  

        @resisting the urge: Mad-cow's suggestion would have saved his vacation from being ruined. True, he got away without paying anything but he was freaking out in a road side station for a couple of hours. Maybe shed a couple of tears at the thought of going to a Thai jail!

      •  

        So it's bargain to get away for free is it?

    • +1 vote

      Yea wish I know this earlier

    • +3 votes

      Ahh, the old "reward the corruption" move. I disagree.

      •  

        HAHAHA, When in Rome…. ;-)

      • +14 votes

        It's a hard one. When corruption is widespread, it's difficult to know how to avoid it.

        I have a friend (who I went to Uni with) who has now moved back to India. He built a new house, and avoided paying bribes the whole way through the approval and construction process. It took longer to get it built than normal, but he was proud of the fact that he had done it bribe-free. But then when he went to connect electricity, the contractors told him there was "a long waiting list" for connections, and he'd be waiting for months unless they could be motivated to find a way to move him up the list. He refused, and told them he would not engage in corruption.

        They kept coming regularly to ask if he'd change his mind, saying that the "waiting list was getting longer" and that the connection could be delayed indefinitely. He kept refusing, and six months later still had no power and was running off a generator. Finally, a friend of his got sick of the situation and "fixed it for him".

        We're lucky to live in a country with no corruption. But in some countries, it's virtually impossible to function without it.

        • +5 votes

          Sure, there's often no easy solution to entrenched corruption like your example of Indian utility workers, and I applaud your friend for not rewarding it as far as practical.

          In OP's situation, they could have, for example, not ridden while apparently over the limit and ensured they had the right permits to operate the vehicle. I'm not sure what Thailand accepts in this regard, maybe an Aus car license is good enough, maybe you need an international permit, or maybe only a Thai-issued motorcycle license is strictly legal.

          If they were detained despite following the laws, the Thai Tourist Police are only a phone call away, and I reckon it's a pretty fair bet the corrupt cops would wave them on their way as soon as you made that phone call.

          Now, if they were in Mexico rather than Thailand, the equation changes significantly.

          •  

            @abb: i think you need a motor cycle license so if you only had a car license you are very lucky they let you off. btw most travel insurance policies wont cover you on a scooter in Thailand. I would never hire scooter in Thailand. its just too dangerous and too many problems if you were in an accident or need to deal with police etc. best use the local red and blue ute taxis they very cheap or hire a car.

        • +1 vote

          @abb: Cancun Spring Break Tourist Police?

        • +10 votes

          "We're lucky to live in a country with no corruption."

          Hahahahahahhahahah! Whew!

          Oh, you were serious.

          ;)

        • +11 votes

          @Geekomatic:

          Comparatively no corruption. You can get through daily life without paying bribes. I've never paid one in Australia.

          Anyone who complains here has never lived in a really corrupt country. Where doctors demand "envelopes" before treatment, or passports take months to be granted unless you provide an "incentive" to get them done faster. Where you fail your driving test every time unless you slip the tester some cash. Where you can't get your house built unless you hire an official's brother to do a "private assessment" of the plans.

          In terms of day-to-day life, Australia is basically corruption free. Sure, politicians may be taken advantage of by lobbyists from time-to-time, and we should have a Federal ICAC to deal with that. But that's nothing compared to most countries.

        • +1 vote

          @mikstylo: yep they suck… A truck load of policia jumping out at you with automatic wepons… Been there done that…

        •  

          @marlor:

          Thank you for being the voice of reason. Even as cynical about authority as I am I know that trying to bribe a cop who pulls you over for speeding or drink-driving in Australia or another Western nation is more likely to get you into trouble, not out of it. Frankly, it might be the best argument for fairly compensating law enforcement; it acts as a buffer or deterrent against corruption.

          •  

            @Chewy Chunks: my friend simply puts 100 baht note in between the license holder when the local cops open it it falls on the ground just deny its yours and they let him go it seems to work well for him. lest stress and headache of having to go to court.

        •  

          @Geekomatic: My bowels nearly corrupted themselves when I read that part of his / her comment!

      •  

        Ahh, the old "reward the corruption" move. I disagree.

        Aww, come on. That is half the fun of going to countries riddled with corruption: you're above the law. As long as you are not stupid enough to get caught with dope, which way too many shit-for-brains Westerners are, then you can have a grand old time.

    •  

      1000 baht is like $40, that's one hell of a bribe!

      usually see the locals including 100baht in tickets/passports etc. when handing over to authorities.

      this is another problem for asia. stupid tourists overpaying bribes as well.

      •  

        Being a tourist they expect more too.

        •  

          yeah the same problem is at food vendors in touristy areas. the problem is if you comply with this ripoff they just do it to everyone and everytime they see how much they can get away with.

          remember checking into a hostel in bkk and have them joke about who set a new record for taxi ride from airport. one poor american sucker paid 1500baht, when the normal rate was 200.

          with food vendors, learn the price of common meals, protest, and if they don't budge, just go to another.

          •  

            @b0rat: Are you really being ripped off if you are Ok with the price?

            Same thing happens in Australia. Tourist areas expect to pay higher price for anything.

            • -1 vote

              @Mad-cow: yes you are because it is not what everyone else is charged and you are not aware of it. just being not aware of it, doesn't make it kosher. sometimes you become aware of it later, you still got ripped and maybe you'll come on here and make a thread about it, but you can't get your money back.

              eg. a plate of pad thai is normally 20-30 baht outside tourist areas, but if you are charged 60 and the local thai guy comes and pays 20 - you're being ripped off. i've even seen dual pricing in tourist areas with the local prices written in thai - but you can work it out. it becomes obvious when a thai hands over 1x20 baht note and walks off. this also occurs in phuket. the thais pay 20 to go anywhere. we pay around 200 for short distances on the island (and that was when i last went several years ago). because of the taxi mafia, i tried to hand over 20 but got a laugh in return, i paid a more normal rate afterwards because i knew its what would have been asked. that said, always negotiate beforehand and know the going rates. sometimes in some parts of thailand they have flat fees on signs now. probably with mandarin text too now.

              we have laws against that sort of thing here, they don't.

              i've honestly seen nowhere in australia where tourists are expected to pay higher prices. literally nowhere. we all pay the same. that said, tourism and related activities is high in oz anyway.

              the same consistency occurs in europe, US etc. unless otherwise specified. even south america isn't as bad.
              it's mainly in asia and with asians.

              but that said, it can happen anywhere.

  • +11 votes

    Out of interest - have you since checked on what the BAC laws are in Thailand?

    • +24 votes

      Unfortunately real facts are redundant in this type of scenario

      • +9 votes

        Haha. Out of interest I did go out and check and it appears to also be 0.05. So unless it was a very strong beer, I doubt OP was over the limit - may have appeared so if they were pulled over soon after, but a proper check would verify.

        • +1 vote

          If he had just finished the beer and drove home it's going to show higher then it really is.
          Most of the beers in Thailand are stronger and that one beer could have been a big bot.

        •  

          Yea finished the beer and got pulled over 15 mins later

        •  

          @H-limelight: Was it a large beer? That's the bottle size that is more frequently served in Thailand. That could have bumped you over 0.05.

        • +1 vote

          @H-limelight:

          I have an Australian standard compliant breathalyzer.

          Had 2 pints and after about 5-10 mins blew about 0.15 .. then tested when I got home about 15 mins later and it was about 0.04.

          Google and you'll probably find some graphs about the alcohol lingering in your mouth/throat distorting readings.

        •  

          @matt-ozb:

          No such thing as a Australian compliant breathalyzer as far as the Australian police are concerned.

          Good for a rough measurement though.

        •  

          @samfisher5986:

          i only paid $400.

          you can buy the same unit that the police use for about $800-1400.

    •  

      Sorry just saw the out of interest part.
      For anyone who has been there during songkran you really do wish they would enforce whatever level it was…..

      •  

        but i like watching soaking wet white shirts

        •  

          Haha dont we all, however Im not that keen on people throwing garbage bins full of water at mopeds speeding by, or wasted festive people going full throttle into power poles. Im all for the pedestrian water/flour ambush (+ 50 points for people in business attire)

  • +7 votes

    Just pay the fine and take as lesson learnt?

    I hope the lesson you learnt was to not drink and drive. Just be thankful you didn't hurt someone else or yourself.

    It sounds like you got away without paying the fine, so maybe the system worked as it should … ie they got your off the road for a few hours, while you sobered up?

  • +1 vote

    Why would this ruin your holiday, you got a good result and a story out of it.
    There is probably a good answer for the best course of action in this situation, but I'm not sure that it will be applicable everywhere in all instances due to the unpredictability of people etc. So just read the situation try and talk your way out of it. Paying a fine and getting back to your hotel is far better then some other outcomes.

    It's worth noting that alchohol tolerances for drivers can be very low (or zero) in other countries and penalties can be very severe so it is worth knowing this beforehand.

    •  

      Not sure the exact law but as breathalyser has low reading and the police did say low is okay.

    •  

      Why would this ruin your holiday,

      Have you ever been pulled over by police in a foreign country? It's not exactly the most pleasureful experience, especially if you've been enjoying your trip up until that point.

  • +3 votes

    Um, How is this a scam when they didn't take any money from you ? Sounds like they were just doing their jobs, and it was more hassle for them than it was worth, so they let you go.

    • +5 votes

      It was definitely a scam to get a bribe, and they let him go without taking his money because the British guy looked like an easier target.

    •  

      They only have OP's ID and signature now. Probably worth $450.

    •  

      Maybe the officers saw OP scared the crap out so they thought it was satisfying enough to let the poor guys go. They already had their target for the day. Maybe they're still laughing this morning about the incident. Seriously those jail threats are seen everyday in Thailand so if you know their trick and just pulled the line "I demand to see an Aussie consulate officer" then they'll let you off, unless you make some joke about their king.

  • -2 votes

    Ummm. Cool story

  •  

    Cliff Notes pls

  • +7 votes

    honestly, you travel to dodgy countries like that, expect to get scammed and/or arrested

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