Monday, February 8, 2016

Monday, February 08, 2016


There are now multiple versions of what will happen to the now celebrated members of the Pattaya Bridge Club after their alleged ‘gambling den’ was raided last week. Here are the two principal ones.

The official version from the local Police chief Police Colonel Sunhat  Pumpanueang is that “The case will still have to follow the legal process.”

That of course is the face saving  version for public consumption. It says ‘We caught them doing something wrong – so it’s not the farce as described.

The second version is that none of the rank and file members will face any court charges and over the next days or weeks they’ll get their bail money back of their passports. But the club president Briton Jeremy Watson may still face some minor charges.

This version also saves face for the local authorities and placates most of the club. But its all a little up in the air and its the variations here that need to be watched.

The story so far: -

Acting on instructions from the Interior Ministry, which apparently had a complaint from an influential angry local Thai, the District Chief (Nia Amphur)  Chakorn Kanjawattana together with military officers raided the Pattaya Bridge Club last Wednesday believing they were breaking up a gambling vice den.

When they found no cash just 32 players aged between 50 and 84 they proceeded to have them arrested anyway and all subsequently admitted gambling, with the exception of a feisty 60-year-old Herman woman, who, I guess, would rather see them in hell first. 

They were not gambling of course. The members were coerced into signing the confessions on advice from a member’s lawyer that they could contest the confessions later.

The members had been under arrest since 3.30 and were not released until 3.30 the following morning and Jeremy Watson not until 5 am. Some did not have access to prescribed medicines

By 10 o’clock they were due to board the motorised cage to take them to court but in stepped Khunying Chodchoy Sophonpanich (Sophie) the Thai president of the Asia-Pacific Bridge Federation, who rushed down from Bangkok to tell the police, in a polite Thai way that they were idiots to pursue this case.

Had she not done so the hapless Bridge Club members would now be in the dreaded court system which spares no man no matter what the eventual result.
As far as the club president is concerned – Jeremy Watson still faces a variety of charges – allowing the club to play with cards which did not have the stamp of the Customs and Excise department which actually prints all playing cards in Thailand, playing unlicensed premises, having more than 120 cards on the table.  Take your pick.  That is what is going to happen at a later date.
So who was the offender?  

Not to put too fine a point on it – the offenders of course were the Department of Provincial Administration, the District Chief, Military and Police.

(i) They are guilty of false arrest and false imprisonment. The members were arrested for illegal gambling.  They were not gambling. They were then detained without food for 12 hours,  24 hours as far as the 60-year-old lady is concerned. They were accompanied each time they went to the toilet and they were not released until they signed a false confession.

(ii) Yes. That false confession was also highly illegal though quite a common practice in Thai police stations.  I have also witnessed Thai police falsifying statements.

Now despite the fact, or maybe because of the fact, that Thai Police and Military have now been publicly humiliated worldwide, there is a potential revenge element here which, when things quieten down, could kick in on poor old Jeremy Watson, from Hants, the President who has been left taking the rap for everything.(Assuming the police live up to their promises to discharge the other 31 members.) If revenge does not kick in - hunger could.

Now had this happened in say Australia, or the UK, the local authorities wouid now be facing multiple law suits and damages per person of up to £100,000 per person.

The Pattaya Bridge Club obviously does not know what will happen. They are hanging fire at the moment. But it’s expected they will publish an account on February 16th when they hope things will be clearer.

Personally if I were a Bridge Club member I would be turning up at the 84-year-old Dutch woman’s door with a bunch of flowers and a bottle of Bolls.  She might want to consider suing  police and the local authorities insist on pursuing Jeremy.

For those who want an account from a member of the club, go to this link. It’s by Avon Wilsmore.

 “We were going to be fined 1000 baht (£20) for gambling”, said Avon
 Then the lawyer one of the players, Trond Rogne, a retired Norwegian oilman, was called in. But then the price went up.

“The deal was:- Each person was to be charged with gambling, bail set at 5,000 baht (£100).  Each person signs document agreeing that they had been gambling.- We are released that night after bail payment. We attend court the next morning to answer the charges

“Well, that didn't sound like a good deal to me. I have quite an aversion to signing false declarations. (But the lawyer’s)  view was that this "confession" was no big deal, we could retract and contest the matter in court. Getting home was to be preferred, so that's what we did.”

As for playing with the wrong cards former British Corresponding Consul Barry Kenyon:  “We find the cards here are not good quality – so whenever a member goes overseas they usually bring a couple of packs back.

“Why have these issues not been raised in 22 years? What is wrong with the licence we have issued by the Contract Bridge Association of Thailand? We all know why. Presumably all bridge clubs in Thailand are operating illegally?  Anyway this is Thailand so let’s wait and see.  I’m more used to help in the shit rather than be in it myself.”

As for his confession he said: “They (the confessions) were made under duress after nearly 12 hours of detention. People just explain to the court they were ordered to sign to get out of the police station at 3 am.  I have seen the same thing in the past over and over again.”

As for Jeremy; he told the Guardian: “I have to go to court …which might be fun.”

It may not be fun. Thai court cases last for years. Court trials sit on only one day a month.  If the prosecution has ten witnesses then that could  bring the trial to nearly two years before the defence even starts.
Jeremy will remain on bail and to leave the country will have to pay at least another £2000 to the court.  If he is acquitted the prosecution may and usually do appeal, and that will drag the case on for another year. If he is convicted by the appeal, he has to appeal – another three years.

 Before it gets to the Supreme Court Pattaya may just be a memory for some of the older members of the club.

So count on a local deal. 

(Update) And judging by the continued heat being turned up by articles and and two opinion pieces in the Bangkok Post today.  Here's one. That is what is what appearts to be happening. 

(In the original version of this story I reported that the person who refused to sign was 84-year-old and Dutch. I apologise for this error)


The story of the raid on the Pattaya Bridge club of course made news worldwide. From New Zealand and Australia, to the UK, Europe, Canada and the United States. My phone was certainly ringing hot. 

Interestingly though PattayaOne broke the story and that is the only English language paper in Pattaya which I could find used it. Nothing from Niels Colov's Pattaya People but then he is sort of in bed with the authorities and crime news often just ‘disappears’ from the Pattaya People.  

The owner of PattayaOne of course, and source of most of the images, is of course Howard Miller, who took over from Barry as corresponding consul for the British Embassy. He resigned though when the Embassy started revamping the small consular office before closing it down. 

I had a little chuckle knowing the ‘friendly’ rivalry between the two.  After quitting his Embassy duties, Howard, a former leader of the Tourist Police Foreign Assistants and want into the property and go-go bar business. Anticipating that I might be writing about Her Majesty’s Vice Consul he was perfectly open and sent me the pictures.

Update: Pattaya Today published a story today


Today in court in Phuket lawyers for BBC correspondent Jonathan Head will be contesting a charge of libel under the computer crime act brought by a questionable lawyer in Pattaya. 

Jonathan is being sued over a segment he did for BBCTV2 programme which went out on the world service. The programme was about the massive frauds carried out on Ian Rance and Colin Vard in Phuket , fraud which required lawyers to notarise fraudulent signatures. 

 Also in court are Colin Vard and Ian Rance who will be making personal appearances. Vard is being sued by another bent lawyer.


Ally said...

And talking of the gross inconsistencies of the foreign based media reporting.
Why hasn't Noyes or Goldies evasion of Thai justice system been reported. Would Mr Miller care to comment why these 2 has-been career criminals, 1 still at large in Thailand with a 7 week old arrest warrent and on bail for fraud, has not received even the slightest mention? Are we missing something?

Bob Kneale said...

This was a farcical episode not to be condoned in any way, a raid instigated by someone with an axe to grind and conducted by local authorities and military personnel, not by the police. Those who have not done so should read the link to the report by a club member who was one of those arrested of what actually happened. That link appears to be much more accurate, less embellished and less exaggerated than the version that appears here.

Those arrested were not denied food by the police as arrangements had been made for food deliveries to be made by friends of the club members who were provided with free bottled water by the police. In that situation presumably there was no need for the police to provide food so why have a go at them for that (none-)reason?

Who is the Sophie that you refer to as assisting the members, do you mean Esther, Khunying Chodchoy Sophonpanich, that the author of the link quoted?

Andrew, you have a lot of respect from your readers, don't spoil it with your own version of events (unless, of course, your version is correct and Avon Wilsmore's isn't).

Observer said...

Thanks for the informative update, Andrew. Excellent insight into the perils of living in Thailand and what may go wrong.

Andrew Drummond said...

Thank you - a correction has been made. It is correct and I have stated twice that arrangements were made with the local 7/11.What I am trying to convery Mr. Kneale is that these people were put in an unenviable situation in forced discomfort through no fault of their own. I have linked to Avon Wilsmore's account as you have noticed and also quoted from it. There differences on the basic facts are not radical.

Observer said...

Bob, I believe you are getting lost in the details. This is an evolving story where not all the facts are known at the initial stages of the initial journalistic investigation. Minor inaccuracies, such as the ones you mentioned, are expected. The fact that the police allegedly provided “free bottled water” (it would not surprise me it was purchased by one of the volunteers) and allowed them access to food does not make it right. Providing adequate food and water to people under arrest is a requirement not a discretionary option. Material facts, in my humble opinion, are falsely arresting and imprisoning law abiding citizens based on a complaint from a disgruntled Thai ex-employee, signing false statement under duress, fining/charging them with gambling without evidence ... just to name a few.

Ally said...

God bless you Bob.
You keep it "real"!

Lancashirelad said...

Observer has hit the nail on the head. The fact remains that these elderly people should NEVER have been arrested in the first place - they should not have even been anywhere near a Police station.
If the officer in-charge of the raid
had exercised due diligence and had ascertained that the playing of cards, (bridge), at the time of the raid was NOT illegal, he should have withdrawn.
Any doubt which he may have had about venue registration could have been the subject of follow-up investigation,
He had no right to unlawfully arrest these elderly card players who had committed NO offence.
I notice that whilst mention has been made of the provision of some food and water to the arrested persons, (APs), the question of deprivation of prescription medications to some of the APs has not been covered.
This whole farce was a monumental cock-up from start to finish.
Heads must roll following this debacle - and they must be Thai heads.

Statmonkey said...

Pattaya One is reporting that this case will be pursued and no side deal has been made. A level of arrogance, ignorance and face-saving that is not to be believed. Anyone want to make excuses for them now? Or suggest that Andrew has over-emphasised this case? Looks like all your worst concerns are going to hold true A.D.

Ally said...

I noted today the authoroties have no intention of dropping this case.
Thailands finger is firmly back on the self destruct/ self harm button.

Graham Smythe said...

Is reviewing police raids going to be a regular segment from now on?

Andrew Drummond said...

Unless I am there in person Grahamn