Unfortunately, every year, a fair few westerners are arrested in Thailand. Whether it’s for overstaying a tourist visa, working illegally, getting into a fight and injuring someone, doing or selling drugs, or even murder – westerners end up in Thai jails. If you’re arrested in Thailand, know a westerner who has been, or just want to be prepared because “you never know”, here what to do if you’re ever arrested in Thailand.
Always Carry Your Passport or ID – First things first. Sometimes being arrested in Thailand can be avoided if you have a copy of your passport and visa or work permit with you. If you’ve been stopped for a minor offense, without photo ID, the police can just arrest you. With photo ID, you might get away with a warning or a small fine. Better than jail, either way.
Don’t Resist Arrest – Like any country in the world, it will just make things worse for you. The police officer is only doing his job. Let him and deal with the consequences later.
Keep Your Temper – The absolute most important thing to do in Thailand, if you get arrested, is to keep your temper and stay polite. Thais place a lot of value on behavior so, if you suddenly start screaming and shouting, you’ve already fallen several levels in their eyes. This, too, can have an impact on how you’re treated and even, to some extent, what the final verdict is. So stay calm. Be polite. Keep your temper. It will pay you back in spades.
Contact Your Consulate or Embassy – As soon as you are allowed to contact anyone, your first phone call should be to the consulate or embassy in Bangkok of the country you’re from. Tell them you’ve been arrested and ask for their help.
While some will not send a consulate or embassy official down to the jail to talk to you (except in extreme cases, like murder) some will. They will give you advice on what to do, as well as give you the name of a good lawyer in Thailand, if you need one, and pass messages on to family and friends. They can also make arrangements to have money, clothing and allowed personal items sent to you in jail from your family or friends.
Don’t Talk Until You Have a Lawyer – Pretty simple really.
Get an English-Speaking Lawyer – Contact or have a family member contact an English-speaking lawyer and arrange to meet with them at the jail (if you haven’t already been released). No matter what the charge, you’ll want a lawyer as, with the language barrier, navigating the system yourself is just about impossible. Plus, the cost of hiring a lawyer is much lower than in the US or Europe, so the benefits will far outweigh the cost.
Arrange For Have Money, Clothing and Personal Items – Thai jails are extremely basic places. Most prisoners in Thai jails arrange for family or friends to send them money, clothing or acceptable personal items, so their stay in jail is more comfortable. Money can be used at the jail shop to buy food, snacks, toiletries and toilet paper.
Do The Crime, Do The Time – If you’re found guilty of a crime that you did commit in Thailand, do the time. In any country, you should abide by the laws of that country, so if you did commit the crime you were charged with do the time or pay the fine. Suck it up. Don’t complain. And next time, behave better.
With minor infractions like visa overstays or drunk and disorderly, you might spend a night or two in jail, be found guilty and have to pay a fine. It’s then up to the court if they deport you or not. In many cases, even if Thailand does deport you, it doesn’t mean you won’t be allowed in the country again. It simply means, on this trip, they really don’t want you.
However, if you commit a major crime and spend time in a Thai jail, it’s highly unlikely you will ever be allowed in the country again, so be aware of that before you decide to commit the crime.