I Got Caught with Drugs in Thailand
“Violators of laws related to illicit drugs… are subject to the death sentence.” That’s what it says on the Customs Department of Thailand’s website anyway.
Witnessing an exchange of whispers between two figures in the shadows of Bangkok was the most terrifying moment of my life. The policemen’s eyes tightened in the darkness as they glared, debating what they were going to do with me. With my hands held in prayer, I gaped back with puppy dog eyes, bloody red from fallen tears and too much vodka. I awaited a verdict that could have sent me drifting up shit creek without a paddle.
An hour earlier I had been giggly and goofy at a house party in a Bangkok apartment, overlooking the buzzing city lights. I was preparing for a Hangover II-esque night on the town, as you do, minus the severed finger and face tattoo, but yearning to befriend a chain-smoking capuchin monkey or, if all else failed, a lemur.
It hadn’t been long since a 17-year-old New Zealander was held in community detention for six weeks, unable to leave Thailand for six months, after getting busted with a packet of Valium without a prescription. But in spite of the country’s drug laws, powdery plastic bags were passed around the party. I hesitated and flicked my gaze to my local friends. They asked me what I was worried about. “Are you kidding?” I blurted.
Nonetheless I succumbed to temptation, accepting two tablets of ecstasy, which I threw into the coin zipper of my wallet. I should have slotted them directly between my ass cheeks.
My friend and I farewelled the party and hopped in a taxi, zooming further away from the city centre towards Studio Lam, an underground DJ venue in Sukhumvit. About half way there, we saw a huge string of cars being flagged to the side of the road. A policeman ushered our taxi to the curb.
My breathing became heavy. I didn’t know police conducted random full-body searches without cause or suspicion, but anything can happen in Bangkok. We were marshalled out of the car, slipping off our shoes and turning our pockets inside out. Another cop began rifling through every nook in the taxi whilst hands rummaged over my body. The fuckers were thorough. My fingers quivered like a shivering infant in the snow as I laid my wallet into the policeman’s extended palm.
He peered into the slits where I kept my cash. Thump, thump, thump – my heart swelled in my chest. Then he opened the coin zipper, fumbling inside the space with his finger. Thumpity-thumpity-thump! – my heart bashed against my ribcage. But he found nothing.
Just when I thought I had dodged a bullet, the cop discovered a rip in my hundred-year-old wallet and pulled the ecstasy pills out of the lining. Thumpity-thumpity-fuckity-fuck-fuck! – my heart exploded out of my chest and rolled down the gutter into Bangkok’s drainage system.
I didn’t wait a second before I whimpered the words “How much?”
The policeman slipped the pill into a secret side pocket in his vest, telling me I was going to jail. He photographed my licence like some kind of investigative reporter and handed back my wallet.
“Seriously, please, how much? I have 5,000 baht (US$140) on me – it’s yours.” I grasped at the cash inside my wallet. The policeman shuddered, ushering the cash out of street view whilst glancing side-to-side.
“No, big trouble. You go jail.”
My mind exploded. I was on the brink of collapsing to my knees, face to his feet, as my eyes became pools of desperation.
The policeman seized our shirts, plodding us down on a metallic street bench, as he corresponded with the Chief of Police. The junior officers mysteriously vanished. Time ticked by glacially as cars sped through the darkness. Car horns and distant sirens echoed beneath the towering Bangkok bridge overhead as I rested my back against a barbwire fence.
I told my friend to pretend we did not know each other, as I knew the police would ask him for money. The policemen returned, asking where I was from, how long I was in Thailand, and what I did for a living.
“Australia, one more week, student.”
Then he requested 100,000 baht from me (US$2,850), to which I replied I had 10,000 baht remaining in my account. 70,000 baht, he demanded, but I literally only had 10,000 baht in my account. I held my hands in prayer, rocking forwards and backwards, begging him to take what I could give.
Finally, after further correspondence with his Chief of Police, the cop allowed me to walk up the street to find an ATM. I ran. 15 minutes later I stumbled across a convenience store and nearly hugged the cash machine outside. When I saw it read ‘Out of Service’, I sent my fist plummeting into the screen, blood seeping from my knuckles.
“FUCK!” I roared.
I prolonged my return for 45 minutes, savouring my freedom and inching towards the chopping block. The policemen scoffed when I revealed the cash machine was out of service, telling me to sit again as he corresponded with his Chief of Police.
My friend winced at my inconsolability.
“Relax dude, I think it is going to be okay. Something strange just happened. He sat next to me and rested his arm on my shoulder. Then he asked if we were going to Si Lom later (Bangkok’s gay neighbourhood). Maybe it’s because we are wearing tank tops. Anyways, I said yes. He kept his arm on my shoulder and we talked about football.”
“What the fuck?” I replied. I would have taken the cop around the corner and given him a blowjob if it meant not going to a Thai prison.
My hands remained locked together as I gawked at the whispering policemen. Finally, the cop nearest to me held out his palm and snapped his fingers inwards, gesturing for me to come. “Now!” The surrounding humidity felt like a cage – my temples pulsated beneath my dripping pores. Traipsing 15 metres towards them felt like running an Olympic marathon.
“I’m going to give you your freedom,” he said, as I nearly shat yesterday’s Pad Thai all over the street.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” I replied, reaching for my wallet. “Where can I give you this money?”
They told me to just move on. I stood still like a cat caught on a highway, before placing my hands to my temples and scurrying away.
“What happened?” My friend asked.
“Shut up. Let’s get the fuck out of here. Hurry!”
I will never know how or why I got away free of charge. Was the cop gay? Did he just have a soft spot for us?
Either way – lesson learned. Don’t do drugs in Bangkok.
Cover by Anachronist.