The following is essentially a real account although there is no verbatim record and comes from the defence in a case in Pattaya – The defendant is Mark Berchowitz, who owns the Green Gazette in South Africa which publishes all government notices.
I have anglicised it and dramatized a bit.
But the decisions and comments were all made in one form or other. This is a condensed summary.
Prosecutor (Pattaya Provincial Criminal Court): “Mark Berchowitz is charged with being illegally in Thailand and…”
Berchowitz: “Wait. I was legal in Thailand.”
Prosecutor:”… and failing to provide information as to his identity at the police station….”
Berchowitz: “Wait. I was legal in Thailand here is my passport and look here are the stamps which say how long my visa was valid for.”
Prosecutor: “Mark Berchowitz failed to provide proper identification…”
Berchowitz: “Wait, wait, wait. I was at the police station to pay a 400 baht fine for not wearing a helmet. They asked to me to provide my Thai driving licence as well, which I did.
“ I had to pass a test for that! They have a record of this. I was stopped by police on my motorcycle and the two women who were coming back to my apartment also stopped while I talked to the officer. The women were not wearing helmets but they were not prosecuted. Why?”.
Prosecutor: “We are withdrawing the first charge. Mark Berchowtiz is charged with robbery by night. That is that on May 21st 2015 at 00.05 am he did commit robbery by night in that after meeting two women in Walking Street and taking them back to the Northpoint condominium her committed the offence whereby documents taken could do harm…”
Berchowitz: “Wait, wait wait. It was not after 12. It was at twelve minutes past ten pm. I have the CCTV footage here. (Fumbles with laptop).
Judge: Put that away.
Prosecutor:“Mark Berchowitz is charged that at 12.03pm on May 2015 he did commit robbery by night in that after meeting two women in Walking Street and taking them back to the Northpoint condominium he deprived them of their ID cards which were handed to security and he did not return them.
Berchowitz: But that’s in the daytime. And I never went anywhere near Walking Street. And I robbed the woman of nothing. I met the girls at Lisa’s Coyote bar in Pattaya 2 Road.
“I held on to their ID cards because I had paid their bar fines because they intimated they would have sex with me under certain financial considerations. But they broke those terms – so I intended to make a complaint and hand the ID cards to police at the same time as I was paying for my fine for not wearing a helmet.”
Prosecutor to Berchowitz. “Will you plead guilty and settle for a 4000 baht fine?”
Berchowitz: “But I’ve already spent two weeks in prison. No”
Judge: “You are hereby remanded to appear in this court on October 10 and 11th 2016 for trial on a charge or robbery by night (etc.)… whereby documents taken could do harm”.
Now forget for a minute the silliness of all this. Forget what you might think of Berchowitz’s attitude.
In normal cases the defendant or in this case the punter would just pay the quick fine and sprint out of the police station, or perhaps more likely have walked quietly away from the situation much earlier by cutting his losses.
But Berchowitz is big on consumer protection even if the consumer is dealing with, er, prostitutes.
This makes a total mockery of the not only the Thai justice system but Thailand’s much publicized high speed courts for tourists, which is in fact what Berchowitz is.
Technically and legally he is quite correct. And quite clearly the Pattaya Police have just flammed the statements through. But this is of course Thailand.
Now he cannot leave the country for a year and if he applies he will no doubt have to pay the court a further departure fee of at least 100,000 baht to go.
And as for finding two bar girls as the witnesses, or indeed plaintiffs in a year’s time. No-one would not put their money on that.
Berchowitz is philosophical.
“I need a break from the office for a year and I can keep up to date online, so there is no real problem. The Immigration Department also has to give me a visa for a year which means I do not have to leave for a neighbouring country.”
Ah the charms of Pattaya.
Berchowtiz was remanded yesterday on the terms stated above.