Big Trouble in Thailand: Thai Police Ganja ‘Scam’

Just into part one only, but Big Trouble in Tourist Thailand, the UK documentary series on Bravo TV, has already caused much controversy, and especially in regards to the Phuket jetski scam that Richard has just blogged about. Thanks to the raw footage, one typical jetski scammer is already behind bars. Rather sensational the documentary may be, but it has managed to come out with damning scamming evidence and put it on TV for the masses to see – enough for some powerful authorities to stand up and take notice………. for a change..

Besides the common jetski scam scandal in Phuket, the first part also took us to the hippy hang-out of Had Rin Beach on Koh Phangan for the infamous Full Moon Party. Here we find Martin an English guy whose darling girlfriend Miche (or however you spell it) has been arrested and put behind bars for possessing Ganja. The couple begin by adamantly claiming that they knew nothing about the ‘smoke’, ie.. they had been set up (oh…no… not that excuse again!) – that is before, Martin admits that the Ganja was his all along and his girlfriend had been carrying it for him. Miche goes to on to say “I didn’t know it would end up like this” (comparing Thailand’s strict laws on Cannabis possession to that in the UK).

Yes, the two were idiots for getting themselves into that situation in the first place, particularly on Had Rin beach on Full Moon Party nights which is synonymous with dodgy drug Ganja busts. As most people to Thailand would say “Do not take drugs in Thailand” (unless you’re willing to pay the consequences). Unfortunately, for the British girl, she hadn’t bothered to heed such advice and she and he simply end up with insufficient money to post ‘bail’.
Well is it bail or not!?? First her boyfriend claims the cops want 65,000 to post bail and next he says “I just want friggin outta here, I’ll pay the bribe”.

Ok, the couple are off their trosh at taking drugs on Koh Phangan and especially carrying it around at a party full of police presence, but what right do the cops on Koh Phangan have to state the amount of ‘bail’ to be paid?? Isn’t that the court’s decision to make, after the suspect is taken to court within the maximum 3 days behind bars immediately after initial arrest? During the program, one of the embassy consuls explains to the suspects that the payment of bail should be posted only on his/her own name and no-one else’s, ie… if one of the cops, or a cop’s friend takes the money and posts it for you, you ain’t gonna see that money again. However, by sheer good luck, you never do go up to court and instead are delighted to hear from one of the other cops that the case against you has been dropped due to lack of evidence (Remember the King Power Duty Free saga at Bangkok Airport a couple of months back?)

So, is this a scam, or not? Some folk will say that anyone who pays a bribe to any rogue cop to be let off a drug charge is as corrupt as the cop himself – and I guess they have a point. Some folk may also say (like against the British couple recently caught at King Power) the offenders should actually think themselves lucky for being able to escape the justice system, without ending up in the slammer. Some folk may even go to length by saying the likes of “They should be grateful to the police for dropping the case, the cops did them one huge favour”.

So, it’s not a scam after all? In some instances where rogue cops take the offenders money to post bail on their behalf, before eventually pocketing it for themselves……. is of course a total scam. Here is a common situation, and especially on Koh Phangan, where it could also be called a complete scam (and it looks like the British couple caught on the program). Cops on patrol, can suspect who is really dealing the drugs, yet for some weird reason they turn a blind eye – why?, I’ll leave that up to your imagination – instead they arrest some scruffy backpacker for a tiny bit of ganja.

Here is where the ‘scam’ comes into effect. Possession of a small amount of Ganja is not usually a serious crime (contrary to popular myth) and the offender, after going to court, is usually let off with a basic fine and a suspended prison sentence (1st time offenders). (In the case of small drug possession, the time the court needs to prepare the basic trial is 1-2 months. He/she gets the bail money back). Instead, some offenders find out after their arrest, that the bit of Ganja they were caught with has suddenly bloomed in size and is 3 times heavier than it was prior to arrest. The offender is then advised by the likes of a ‘lawyer’ (perhaps a friend of the cops’) that a small possession of a Ganja for personal use is, in fact, a serious crime and he/she could face a long time incarcerated. The offender becomes paranoia and often agrees to clear the matter as soon as possible and “Get the heck outta here” Martin and his girlfriend in Big Trouble in Thailand are quoted at 65,000 – 70,000 baht – this is actually rather less than the usual sum that is floated around Koh Phangan, which is often in the region of 100,000 baht.

However, as is stated in every Thailand guidebook, on the wall of every airport wall and along every entry pier of Koh Phangan “Possession of Illegal Drugs is Prohibited”. Do some foreigners just not get it? this isn’t Europe, the police aren’t just gonna confiscate your dope and say “don’t do it again”. Yes, many cops are involved in a Ganja ‘scam’, so do yourself a favour and just don’t be so daft to get yourself involved.

16 responses to “Big Trouble in Thailand: Thai Police Ganja ‘Scam’

  1. If I come with drugs to the UK, will they give me Royal treatment & accomadate me at the Buchimgham Palace?

  2. Took me a while to understand the word GANJA. Should it be GANCHA marijuana?

  3. Thanks for writing about this, I didnt know:

    “Possession of a small amount of Ganja is not usually a serious crime (contrary to popular myth) and the offender, after going to court, is usually let off with a basic fine and a suspended prison sentence (1st time offenders).”

    But if I would be in the situation of these 2, probably I would just pay. I dont smoke Ganja in TH, but who knows what can happen?


  4. If I come with drugs to the UK, will they give me Royal treatment & accomadate me at the Buchimgham Palace?

    No-but they wont demand a THB65,0000 bribe to let you go!

  5. Well, as written above about Ganja possession in contrast to popular paranoia, the British girl was finally given a suspended prison sentence and a small fine. In the meanwhile, she got out on bail and had to wait three weeks for the decision day. Not a big story after all. Beats handing over tens of thousands to crooked cops.

  6. How a person from the UK could make this is a joke: what with the UK’s recent political expense scandal ; terrible levels of social decay; disgusting violence on the streets; drug problems; drink problems; a massive problem with social behavioural problems which the rest of the world laugh at (ever seen English people abroad..its a joke);economical lunacy; massive levels of teeenage pregnancy; appalling historical record of oppression to weaker nations all over the world and the rediculous system where the middle classes seem to pay for the majority of a non tax paying elite and lazy unemployed…..really get a life. What a childish and naive film.

    I expect the spoilt naive TV children of so called western democracy will go wow…..Tailand is a bad countttry (did I forget poor levels of education and lack of basic spelling……what a joke.

    Yes Thailand has its problems but I have lived in both countries and the UK needs to start looking at itself and stop pointing the finger.

    By the way I am English and this si what i knwo from my experience of living in both countries.

  7. Give Thailand a break. They have their laws and anyone who comes to its shores is a guest. yes a guest !!! Do they knwo what the word means ? It means you have been lucy enough to be let in. Do guests go to people’s houses and desecrate the requests and regulations of the home owner or friend. NO ! So why do it in someone eleses coountry. The arrogance of spoilt western children. Ohhhh but there is no corruption in Europe or USA……oh my god how naive most people are. Wake up please.

  8. I don’t think Thai people should put up with draconian drug laws that unfairly punish themselves and visitors to Thailand.

    Putting someone in jail for marijuana use is morally wrong. Period.

    Marijuana prohibition does nothing but to spread corruption both official (e.g: police, military, etc.) and also illegal (e.g: gangs, cartels, etc.).

    Thai people are obsessed with alcohol via Thai whiskey, beer, and other forms. Alcohol companies make fortunes. Yet alcohol is a drug that is significantly more dangerous than marijuana. Look up marijuana on Wikipedia. You’ll find that nobody in the history of the world has ever died from marijuana use alone. Yet alcohol can be physically addictive for some, lead to alcohol poisoning and death, and is responsible for an almost uncountable number of rapes, murders, vehicular manslaughter, and other crimes every year.

  9. Voice of Reason

    Alcohol is a drug. In fact, it’s one of the nastiest drugs regardless of its “legal” status in most of the world.

    Marijuana prohibition will eventually end the way of alcohol prohibition.

  10. The way the scam works is that they deny you your right to bail, which should be 45,000 refundable at court. Instead they only let you speak to a corrupt translator.

    Paying the 65,000 gets you out and gets you to court in a week. There you get the 5000 fine. If you dont pay it can take longer. Since most people don’t want to explain to there family and employers that they are stuck in thailand, they pay.

    The way around it is to get a non corrupt lawyer to get you your bail rights. That means a few days in the slammer while they fly in from bangkok.

  11. common guys, the reality is worst than that

    there is no real laws in Thailand, just a bunch of corruption spreading all around tourists

    what amazed me is how Thailand react when people bust some of obvious scam organized by crooked cops

    so the Thai authorities do not care about the safety of the tourist, and this is the end results period

    a car travelling from bangkok to Krabi was robbed during the night, it’s a frequent story. what the Thai authorities do…Nothing

    people get scammed by jetSKi operators covered by cops in each beach in Thailand..what the Thai authorities do….Nothing

    this is a shame that some people found themselves in big trouble in this country and the police and authorities just do nothing about that

    a couple of tourists were agressed on the beach of Koh Smaui in daylight for a JetSki scam…what the tuhorities do about that…..again Nothing

    why they do nothing, because Thailand is first not a stable country and second the Thais are more concerned to milk the maximum of cash from each visitors than offering a great service

    Thailand is a big mess right now, and need first to stabilize and elect a new governement, from there they can clean the mess, and make it a better place first for the Thais people and then for the tourist

    we have been in contact with rude taxidrivers, rude bus operators, and extremelly agressive people during our stay in Thailand. we met several touritst that all agreed to never visit this country again

    for myself and my friend and relatives, Thailand is just a big NO No

    the Land of Scam for now, until they clean the mess

  12. You obviously didn’t learn any Thai culture including basic language and definitely didn’t go to anywhere off the well worn guide book tourist trail. Therefore you didn’t meet any genuine, good hearted friendly Thai people. I am glad you, your family and friends will not return, the people that live there will not have to be subjected to your whinging.


  14. It is rife with bad egg cops in tourist areas such as the Khaosan Road area of BKK.

    I left my guest house to get water from across the road at a 7/11 at 3.15am. As I walked back to the guest house, down an alley a motorbike cop stopped me and searched me, they found nothing, I didn’t even have any pockets to search, tho that didn’t stop them looking down my trousers, both back and front. I had no illegal substances in my possession. He’d pulled me on a hunch because I had long hair and obviously a westerner with some cash. Two more cops turned up and made me get on the back of a motorbike and took me to the station for a urine test, which I failed (I’d been on a quiet island where it was safe to use). I was threatened with 3 days in the “monkey pen” with the ladyboys, followed by 45 days in the court jail until my hearing was heard, they said I wouldn’t get bail. I knew what was coming, they eventually wanted a 40,000 bt bribe to let me go there and then, which I managed to get down to 20,000bt. They let me walk out of the station to go to the ATM to get it, whilst holding my passport.

    I don’t believe any cops in this area fight crime, they constantly harass tourists for bribes. I’ve been stopped and searched 4 times now in BKK in a total of 3 weeks. I was once caught urinating and had to pay a bribe of 2000bt, he wanted 5000bt but I only had 2000 on me and no atm card. I’d been walking home from a blues bar and got caught short, I don’t pee in shop doorways or in the street, I went down the side of a canal bridge and pee’d where hundreds of Thai’s pee every day. I was just being milked.

    Don’t misunderstand me, I’ve been to, more rural areas of Thailand and found the people to be more generous and warm than I’d have possibly imagined, when I recounted my stories to them they were as disgusted as I was.

    Something should be done to highlight this increasing problem in tourist areas, maybe secret filming (anyone out there up for a project? I’m sure you’d get it on TV), as its spoiling things badly. I’m currently in BKK recovering from a medical operation and I dare not go out on the streets for fear of being picked on by these mafiosa cops, as ganja can stay in the system for 28 days, and for what? Having long hair and baht in my pocket/bank ac. Ok some may say I shouldn’t smoke ganja, which is ok but I dont think people that think that should be allowed to breath or at least drink alcohol! Ganja is not the evil, its the robbing cops that is!

  15. Ps. when I was in the station there were 12-15 other western tourists around the large table and about 8 ladyboy hookers. The ladyboy hookers got touched on the forehead by the processing cop and allowed to go, but the westerners were being seriously hassled for cash ad not let go without paying up. This happens every night here, no wonder they can afford a new police station!!

  16. dana hodgson

    \hello to all
    i just got back from Koh Phangan and yes i have been scammed by the ganja corrupt cops ……long story they actually found it in the ashtray which wasn’t mine ha ha ….anyway i still love thailand and everyone just have to be very careful also if you are staying in a bungalow don’t keep it on you ,better is to rent a house while you in thailand …safer \;