The Fuzz

25 Nov 2006

Nakhon Si Thammarat

We deserved it, really. Two months of lax security and no thefts had made us complacent. Under the pillow is not really a good place to hide your electronics.

Especially when they're plugged into the wall. And your room has daily servicing. And costs just under six dollars a night.

Which is how we ended up in the police station in a small Thai city that sees few tourists. The officer is friendly but speaks English about as well as I speak Thai. I point at "I want to report an offence," in my phrasebook. After a while he points at "My ... has been stolen."

We change officers once the draft is done. The new guy is very enthusiastic about the chance to practice his English. He jokes with us, makes us correct his pronunciation, and eventually gives us a report.

We leave with an incomprehensible (to us) piece of paper that's hopefully worth 10,000 baht, and a new respect for the boys in brown.

The footpaths here are wide and easy to walk on. Except for the one in front of me, which is full of police.

I'm momentarily baffled by this, because a second ago it was empty. The officer has come out of nowhere, ridden his motorcycle up on to the footpath directly in front of me. And now he wants to know how long I've been in Thailand.

I tell him, but he doesn't understand "days". "Ten weeks? Ten months? Ten years?" Things are getting, if not actually tense, at least strained. My phrasebook gets me out of jail.

Asked about my address, I find the entry for "friend", hoping I won't have to explain couchsurfing.

He is, as usual, delighted when I say I'm from Australia.

He shakes my hand, gets back on the bike, and rides off. If it hadn't been for the uniform, it could have been a totally normal conversation with a curious local.

He never asked to see my passport. He didn't need to.

The next day we applied for a visa extension.

In conversation with a local, I mention that the Lonely Planet guidebook, no less, says that the going rate to bribe your way out of a "small pot bust" is 50,000 baht. He looks at me incredulously.

"Fifty thousand? That'll get you off murder!"

I don't ask how he knows.