Big Trouble in Thailand?

Edit: Mr. Howard Miller, head of the Pattaya  Tourist Police Volunteers, has commented below on this article and I need to make a correction. The Thai Tourist Police Officers do indeed have the powers to investigate , detain, and make arrests of those they deem to have committed illegal acts. The Thai Tourist Police VOLUNTEERS Do Not have any powers to investigate, detain or arrest any individual at any time. I hope that clears up any confusion my readers may have had due to my not being clear on this matter.

Recently a documentary aired in Great Britain on the Bravo channel entitled Big Trouble in Thailand. This documentary follows the stories of several British nationals as well as a few of the tourist police that work hand in hand with the Thai police in the larger tourist areas of Thailand. The first 3 parts can be seen below this post.

I have to say that at first glance I find the documentary to be very one sided and it seems the ultimate goal was to paint Thailand in a negative light while showing the British nationals involved in a much more positive way then they should be.

The first scene you see the British military is in town and a young soldier has rented a jet ski to play around on for the day. When he brought it back the owner of the jet ski claimed that the soldier had damaged it.

Now, anyone that has been to Thailand knows that this scam does indeed happen and I have no quibble with this but how this plays out on film was odd and I believe partially staged. The young soldier admitted to running from the jet ski owner and then agreed to pay 35,000 baht for the damage. Then his ranking officer is called and comes to the rescue. Heated words are exchanged and it ends up being resolved with the soldier paying 35,000 baht. It’s also very troubling that this whole scenario plays out at the jet ski owners house and not at the beach which is highly unusual. Nothing rings true about this incident.

Why didn’t anyone involved call the police? They were nowhere to be found. I find it hard to believe that a ranking British Military official would go this alone without working with the proper authorities.

Next we have the story of two young Brits enjoying the full moon party when the girlfriend disappears only to be found the next morning in a Thai jail because she was found to be in possession of marijuana. The fine being asked for her release is 70,000 baht. While this is a known that the police will sometimes look the other way if some money passes hands I fail to see why I as a viewer should feel sorry for her or her boyfriend. They broke the law and she faces jail time and fines now. But the documentary leads you to believe that this is an every day occurrence and that the broken law isn’t the issue.


The third part, and the last I could find online for now, follows Mr. Howard miller, the head of the Pattaya tourist police, as he does his job on Walking street. This I find to be the most disturbing. The tourist police were created to help the regular Thai police, assisting them with translations and helping to make things go smooth during disputes with foreigners. As per the Thai Tourism Authority:

With the growth of tourism over the last 30 years a special unit has been set up by the Royal Thai Police force to deal with the safety and well-being of tourists. The officers of the Tourist Police wear a distinctive badge on the their arm and speak English and some other European languages. They can be called upon in all kinds of situations, such as road traffic accidents, theft, disputes with hotels or shop keepers where a foreign tourist is involved. They will act as arbitrators on disputes, and in our experience they do so in an unbiased fashion.

The tourist police have absolutely no authority to arrest any individual in Thailand nor do they have any authority to conduct investigations. Mr. Miller, it seems, thinks otherwise. Mr. Miller states “foreigners work with police of that country ( Thailand ) to deal with crime”.  Dealing with crime is a far cry from facilitating foreigners needs and arbitrating  disputes.

Here is where I believe another staged incident occurs. While playing up Mr. Millers role as head of the Pattaya tourist police the film crew goes with him to investigate a possible drug ring. When they arrive at the spot where the food cart was( the cover for this big drug dealer) they find the food cart is gone but conveniently on the ground is a bottle cap full of Yabba ( crystal meth ) for Mr. Miller to find and expound upon.

I don’t need to tell anyone that has been to walking street how absurd that situation is.  In these economic times dealers aren’t going to be leaving there stash about  and a cap full of yabba would have lasted there all of 1 minute before it disappeared. Aside from that fact it is absolutely not the jurisdiction of the tourist police to investigate such crime or make arrests in such a crime. They are there to assist the regular police in matters related to tourists.

In conclusion I think Big Trouble in Thailand is much more than a waste of time…I feel it’s  a fraud meant to paint Thailand in a negative light. The journalism was so one sided and leaned towards sympathetic to all of the British nationals involved. I truly believe that parts of this documentary were staged.

These are my opinions and my opinions only. Watch the three episodes below and judge for yourself then tell me what you think.

Update: the 4th part has been found and added. Apparently there will be 8 parts with the further parts being aired in the next few days. As they get released I will add them here and in the video gallery on the navigation bar.

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Comment by MikeNo Gravatar
2009-09-08 21:20:37

Hi Talen-I get the impression you didn’t like the show?

I think the idea of the show is to expose the bad behaviour of Brits abroad, with the possible consequences in Thailand of misbehaving. It also focuses on three UK volunteers for the foreign assistants to the Thai tourist police including Mr Miller.

Unfortunately my Internet connection is too slow to view the clips effectively. So I can’t make a judgment about some events being staged, however I did read and interesting post from BBC correspondent Andrew Drummond on his blog regarding the show.

This post shows several still images of the Royal Marines jet ski incident. Now the stills could be from the show or they might have been taken by Mr Drummonds photographer Andrew Chant.

If the latter applies then this might lead one to believe it was staged since why would Mr Drummond and his photographer be conveniently placed to photograph the action.

Whether Thailand gets painted in a negative light remains to be seen, but scams and drugs are a fact of life here whether you and I like it or not.

Personally I think that any negative light might well fall on some of the Brits abroad featured in the show and their behaviour in LOS.
Mike´s last blog ..Thailand Land of Smiles-LOS My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-09-08 21:40:29

Mike, I didn’t get the impression from the first 4 episodes that the intent was to expose the bad behavior of the Brits.

The first 4 episodes really show Thailand in a bad light and not just from the standpoint of the reality that there are scams and bad things do happen. They seem to be going overboard without giving any other point of view.

I read the post you pointed out and the pictures are definitely stills from the show. Andrew Drummond has written it like a stand alone news story but it seems his photographer may have been on site.

After watching it several times I still fail to find it believable in the least. Even a first time tourist to Thailand would have had the police there and the situation would have happened on the beach not at the jet ski owners house… but we are lead to believe seasoned military professionals decided to forego police involvement.

Comment by CatherineNo Gravatar
2009-09-08 21:53:47

Talen, thank you so much for tracking these videos down. I was curious when I read the article on the coming series so I do want to know more about how they are dealing with this touchy subject.

The UK used to be known for its top quality documentaries (the best in the world). But after reading your posts, I guess it does not extend to this one.
Catherine´s last blog ..Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners: Hugh Leong My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-09-08 22:41:25

Cat ,
I agree that U.K documentaries are usually among the best in the world but this one leaves me scratching my head and asking even more questions.

There is no question that there are problems in the tourist areas of Thailand with scams and the like but parts of this documentary just aren’t sitting well with me.

I probably should have waited to post on this until the program has concluded but there were just too many initial thoughts for me to wait.

Comment by LloydNo Gravatar
2009-09-08 22:05:15

“Same same but different”, how many times will they flog a dead horse and keep showing the same theme time and time again, just the faces and the countries change, even the jetski scams are not restricted to Thailand!

One thing that always amazes me is the amount of people who holiday in Thailand without sufficient funds, or insurance, to cover possible problems. Thai Nationals who travel abroad are often subject to visa conditions that require a certain amount of available funds or financial security, the same rules should be applied to travellers from certain countries, particularly countries like the UK where there are a large number of travellers who are trouble makers or just plain stupid!

I agree with Mike, I don’t believe the people in the UK will see this and think too much about Thailand more about the idiots involved.

Comment by Stephen CNo Gravatar
2009-09-09 01:25:02

Before i read this entry, i was thinking exactly the same about the Ya-Ba bust. The only time i have ever read about small-time dealers throwing away their stash like that is when the police are very close. Like written above, someone would have picked that stash up straight away – left lying there is hard to believe..
Again, i never heard about volunteer farang police being in charge of busting drug dealers – i always believed that was the Thai police’s job.
Stephen C´s last blog ..Monks on Alms Round by Boat My ComLuv Profile

Comment by Howard MillerNo Gravatar
2009-09-09 10:08:13

This is one of the reasons why I really hate the internet. People who know little or nothing about what they are writing about are able to publish information to the world, which is simply incorrect.
1. The Tourist Police are a division of the Royal Thai Police and have FULL powers to arrest and investigate anyone they wish.
2. There is nothing in this eight part documentary which is made-up, it is a real life documentary. However if you feel it is you must report it to OFCOM, The independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries who regulate UK TV. The program was made in strict accordance with their regulations.
3. Regarding my incident with the food cart, it was still there as can be seen on the program, however the owner of the cart had dissapeared. The drugs were found as shown. They were on the floor encased in a metal bottle top. I was not investigating a crime, I was flagged down by the Russian Tourist and simply secured the evidence before the Thai Police arrived who, of course, took over, as I am NOT a police officer.
I respect your personal opinions about the show but please ensure you know the facts before you publish a blog in future. Remember, the world is watching and some may actually believe what you write.

Howard Miller
Group Leader
Foreign Tourist Police Assistants, Pattaya, Thailand
Howard Miller´s last blog ..Swine Flu – Actions Stations! My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-09-09 14:48:02

Mr. Miller,

1. You are correct that the tourist police are an arm of the royal Thai police and they do have the power to investigate crimes and make arrests. Tourist police VOLUNTEERS such as yourself DO NOT have those powers.That was a nice attempt of you to confuse the situation.

2. The scene regarding the jet ski I truly believe was staged as well as, I believe, the scene regarding the yabba find. Myself and many others find it hard to believe that tourists are turning in Thai drug dealers on Walking Street and the dealers are leaving their food carts and drugs behind for you to find. The documentary followed you and led viewers to believe that you were investigating this crime. You do not have the power to investigate any crimes as a volunteer member of the tourist police and you should have corrected them. I think you think too highly of the media…and someone should report the documentary.

3. I would suggest that the world is watching you Mr. Miller the documentary gave a false impression of what your job duties are…as you just did again in these comments. You are a volunteer tourist police officer.

I would also like to add at the end of this article I stated:

“These are my opinions and my opinions only. Watch the three episodes below and judge for yourself then tell me what you think.”

I think at the very least the documentary was misleading in more than a few ways. It could very well be that the yabba find was not staged ….my saying I believe it might have been staged is not a fact it is an opinion.
Now you have made your opinion clear…hopefully others will weigh in as well.

Comment by andy Subscribed to comments via email
2009-09-22 17:52:10

come on mr miller who you kidding..pattaya is like something from enid blytons toy town..police are a joke, only interested in farang with no helmet whilst on mopeds, where are the police at night when all the crime is happening…ASLEEP, there is a thai man on walking st everynight selling cannabiss cocain yabba oat the bottom of soi 16 about too meters from where you sit and you dont know, the police are selling the drugs in the go go bars etc, why dont you stand up for the people your supposed to represent instead of being a goffer for the corrupt pattaya police..oh and while im here why not do something about the thai who sells peodophile dvds on the bottom of soi yamoto beach rd..regards..andy

Comment by LloydNo Gravatar
2009-09-09 13:06:49

Howards comments are interesting and seem at odds with published documentation and

Wikipedia: ‘Tourist Police – uniformed personnel who lack police powers and are largely responsible for writing out reports for insurance companies for victims of theft. In more serious cases, they will translate reports to be passed on the normal police in Bangkok. Recently recruiting foreign nationals living in Thailand.’

Thai Tourist Police website – Authority & Function

‘Real life’ is a very abstract term and could cover anything from cooking programs to wildlife documentaries. Ofcom is a regulatory authority of the United Kingdom and has no say, or control, over program content other than to provide ‘codes of practice/conduct’ which sadly do not cover staging bogus drug finds and portraying them to be real!

This is why I love the internet, because it gives people a chance to prove without a doubt just how stupid and ignorant they really are.

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-09-09 15:00:49

Facts will get you everywhere…I think Mr. Miller was quibbling the fact because the actual tourist police do have the authority while volunteer tourist police are to function as you cited.

Comment by MartynNo Gravatar
2009-09-09 16:29:01

Talen you seemed to have stirred up quite a hornets nest with this one and that’s the sign of a good post. I haven’t seen the program myself and unless someone ties me to a chair and puts it on then I won’t be doing so….however I would like to add the following comment.

I have spoken to one hell of a lot of people here in the UK today on my day off and nobody has seen it or expressed any wish to see it. There is a huge difference here in TV viewing figures when comparing Bravo TV to the BBC. Basically no one as such watches Bravo TV apart from thrill seekers and social benefit collectors, with a few exceptions. If the program had been aired on the BBC or even Sky TV then the reaction and hit figures would have been far higher.

In terms of quality programs then put it this way. A BBC wildlife documentary on for example ‘The Lions of Africa’ would involve a huge budget, large production team and recording done in an eviromentally friendly manner. Bravo TV and its like would be low budget, drug the lions, superglue them to the ground and wait for them to come round. I stand with you on this one to the degree that although I haven’t seen it I would place a few baht on some of it having been stage managed. The damage to Thailand as far as the show goes will be zero because ‘nobody’ will have seen it. These fly on the wall series really don’t appeal to me unless of course it was Thailand and bar girls. Bravo Oscar and out.
Martyn´s last blog ..Amazing Thailand – The Bin Man My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-09-09 16:37:44


it would seem my opinions have struck a few nerves with e-mails outnumbering comments on this article by 5-1. Mostly in favor but there have been a few letting me know my opinions are shite.

I hope you change your mind and watch at least the first 4 parts…I would very much like to hear how you perceived the events, especially the jet ski part which I now think was totally fabricated.

It’s good to know that Bravo isn’t nearly as watched as the BBC. I had never heard of Bravo and was unsure of their reach.

I do enjoy the BBC and usually have it on TV most of the time while I’m in America…because god knows American media is garbage.

Comment by MartynNo Gravatar
2009-09-09 17:18:45

I believe the program is being repeated tomorrow so I will take some rope with me to my local bar, grab a beer and a long straw and view it.
Martyn´s last blog ..Amazing Thailand – The Bin Man My ComLuv Profile

Comment by MartynNo Gravatar
2009-09-11 02:56:53

Talen I viewed the program and quite enjoyed it but more from the point of view that I saw a lot of what I’m missing. The jet ski incident between JJ and the navy officer was in my opinion possibly real but with one hell of a lot of playing up to the cameras, maybe a deal was struck and certain actions agreed. Episode One hasn’t exactly set the world on fire here in the UK and so I’ll stick to my no damage to Thailand assessment. If episode two comes and finds me then I’ll watch it but otherwise it’s a no no for me.

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-09-11 03:28:37

Martyn, I agree there was a lot of playing up to the camera’s but I still find in unbelievable that it happened at the jet ski owners house and not on the beach.

The jet ski operator was arrested today based on the filmed footage and one of the makers of the documentary, Gavin Hall is his name I believe, has been on various sites feeling bad for JJ…what did he think would happen? And why would he feel bad?

I still don;t buy the fact that any military personnel would head off this situation on his own without calling in the authorities. On at least one forum it was claimed that the police were called and involved but that the footage was cut from the film…if that is true I wonder why JJ wasn’t arrested immediately.

Comment by GarryNo Gravatar
2009-09-14 11:11:17

Talen, I have been to Thailand 50 or so times. I have seen the jet ski incident on a couple of occasions at different beaches, but they were on the beach and not at the ski owners house, with this in mind it could well have been staged. As for the Yabba find I too was mystified as to how they walked straight up and found the drug wrapped in a bottle top.
Thailand is no different to any other country in the world. If you commit a crime you do the time, its no use bleating when caught theres only one person to blame.

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-09-14 17:14:46

Very true points. I always have a good chuckle whenever an American gets in trouble in another country and they try to invoke their rights thinking that they extend to other countries.

Comment by Andrew Drummond Subscribed to comments via email
2009-09-15 08:16:35

Just to clarify matters. All the pictures on my site were provided by the producer at my request.
They went out under the name Chant/Gavin Hill because picture syndication goes out under the name Andrew Chant together with the name of the cameraman. We were not there but would love to have been.
Andrew Drummond´s last blog ..I apologise to the Thai people but blame the film-makers – JJ My ComLuv Profile

Comment by tobyNo Gravatar
2009-09-18 17:54:10

Staged or not I think the production was a good one. Thai people are natural actors. The stories were interesting and thought provoking. Certainly raised a lot of eyebrows. The jet ski segment could not put Englishman into a bad light if that was the shows intent because too many people know about the jet ski scams not too mention JJ bringing out a gun. Over acting maybe but real possibly true but if he called the camera crew then it was over acting but made for good TV. But not withstanding the jet ski scam all tour boat operators I have dealt with in many different provinces are fair and decent people who really enjoy making the Farang have the best vacation experience possible! I had one incident in Koh Leape whereby I had paid to go on one speedboat from Leape to Satun but was told by a competitor to get on his boat (not knowing whose boat it was)with every body else to find out I had to pay again so I then realized we got on the wrong boat and when I got back to the dock I had to demand my first payment back in the form of a refund from a very tall and angry Thai man but when I pointed out that I did not use his service and that this sort of thing happens every day (my assumption) and started looking for the police he gave me the refund after his 15 minute tirade. Most Thai people are very patient and kind and in some provinces quite generous to me. I am much more inclined to stay away from Farang in tourist spots and always gravitate towards the Thai locals with the exception of Pattaya as I stay away from both. This is perhaps why most all of my many experiences in Thailand have been very positive for me.

Comment by AndyNo Gravatar
2009-09-23 18:03:19

Waiting for a come back from Howard Miller

1. You are correct that the tourist police are an arm of the royal Thai police and they do have the power to investigate crimes and make arrests. Tourist police VOLUNTEERS such as yourself DO NOT have those powers.That was a nice attempt of you to confuse the situation.

Well said Talen

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-09-27 08:52:51

I have a feeling you’ll be waiting a very long time Andy.

Comment by topgunNo Gravatar
2009-09-25 10:36:42

Sounds same old same old. Those jet ski people do need a shake down though. they push the boat right out. so to speak. had a running with them myslef a few years ago. my advice is probably buy your own 1 for about 350 000 baht probably cheaper and safer in the long run. or just don’t rent

Comment by Anonymous Subscribed to comments via email
2009-10-24 02:49:14

These indeed shows the bizarre bad behavior of foreigners abroad. However, to say that some money passes hand and I’ll admit some scams occur is understating the reality in Thailand. Its hard for Westerners to truly grasp how corrupt the country is. It is beautiful and has its allure. There have been other examples such as someone helping someone up from a motorbike accident then being blamed for it and having to pay 60,000 baht, or being pulled over for no reason and asked to pay a bribe. Not saying its bad or good, but this is accurate or understated view of Thailand. It is what it is. I have been living here for sometime, and a colleague of coined the phrase land of smiles and daggers.

Comment by Anonymous Subscribed to comments via email
2009-10-24 03:03:20

Here is an article about the jet ski scams in thailand also at the bottom there is information the jetski scammer JJ from the show being arrested

Comment by John S. Johnson Subscribed to comments via email
2009-10-27 22:03:10

In this show the attitude of the tourist police was apparently favorable towards corruption. How convenient when you can get away from any situation just by paying the amount of money you’re asked to pay. Don’t have to spend annoying two or three hours solving the situation at the police station. Everything can be solved just by paying some corruption money. As easy as it gets.

Comment by Katy PeacockNo Gravatar
2009-10-29 11:03:01

I think that “Big trouble in Thailand” could be an ongoing documentary which would run for years and years. Our friends and family have been ripped off much more than any other person on last weeks show, the Thai Police are an absolute joke, i only hope that the forein police assistants can help people who become victims of curruption.

As for the farrangs who commit drug crime in Thailand, i found it very interesting and mind blowing to watch – especially the guy who got 26 yrs omg i would rather get the death sentance!

Mr Miller was only trying to help the people out there, and as for someones comments who said he was acting on the side of the currupt Thai police, i hope he wasn’t other wise what is the point in them being there??

If anyone has got any information on a currupt Thai (so called Solicitor) who cons British people out of thousands of pounds please can you help. His name is Karanjanrat Pajoit or something similar. any help would be much appreciated.

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