This letter was published in The Nation on 15 May 2005. These kind of stories seem all too common in Thailand.
A tale of woe and the Thai justice system
I may have an interesting story that seems to be one that many farangs in Thailand experience: I've been pursuing justice (and the return of my property from a bar girl) through the court system.
First, let me explain that I’m not on vacation; I’m a professional educator with a valid work permit enrolled in the Thai social system. I have a master’s degree in TEFL/TESL and teach English to young Thais interested in educational programmes in English-speaking countries. I'm 63 years old, and I've been living and teaching here for four years.
I also want to be very clear about this: The bar girl and I both agree that we've never had a sexual relationship of any kind (she so stated in one of the court cases). This started out to be a business partnership designed to help a family in need improve their lives.
This all began three years ago when the bar girl and her brother convinced me to trust them in a business partnership. After paying for an Isuzu pickup truck (Bt375,000), they insisted that a farang’s name could not appear on a car title and that I should trust them to put the truck in her name. Of course, they disappeared with the vehicle shortly after the title was changed. We had discussed a business partnership that needed a truck to operate. I had visited their family and friends upcountry and had many business meetings that convinced me that they were genuine and trustworthy.
In trying to find them and the truck, I hired a Thai lawyer who advised me to make a police report with his friend and to publish a "wanted poster" offering a large reward. Well, that got me arrested by the bar girl’s policeman cousin and I spent two weeks in Bangkok Special Prison until my family arranged for my bail guarantees. (She had filed three defamation cases in three different police districts, each with a Bt200,000 bail guarantee!)
I spent huge amounts of money on bail, legal fees, and "under the table" fees to policeman in exchange for a reduced bail guarantee. Eventually I settled all three cases in the three separate courts (one upcountry in Suphan Buri!) for small fines – Bt5,000, Bt4,000 and Bt2,000. (My family came up with Bt600,000 in bail guarantees for those small fines and Bt150,000 in fees for the new lawyer.)
I'm currently pursuing cases against the first attorney through the Law Society of Thailand and the civil courts. (I won that case, but he recently showed up at the court just before I went to collect my settlement at his law offices with official papers. He alleges he never received notification of the trial and he wants to sue me for I don't know what.)
In the meantime, the bar girl had written a bad letter to immigration in an attempt to get me deported. I found out about this letter quite by accident one day as I was renewing my visa at immigration, and I sued for defamation – and won!
I also filed a criminal case with the prosecutor's office near Southern Bangkok Criminal Court alleging embezzlement and car theft. The police, with the help of the 191 Police I had hired, found the missing truck and impounded it for a year. Well, almost a year; the police station that impounded the truck started using it for "undercover work", or so they said, and it wasn't at the station for about six months.
The prosecutor investigated for one year and then decided there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute – even though the bar girl doesn't have a driver’s licence and cannot drive, she insisted the truck was a gift! And she has apparently hired the car dealer who sold me the truck to agree that the truck was a "gift". The truck was returned to the bar girl.
I then filed a citizen's criminal case with the court. After many months, the court completely missed the focus of the complaint and replied that I should have chosen one or the other (embezzlement or car theft) and then refused the case for that reason. That case is still on appeal (almost two years of waiting for the appeal).
I then filed a civil case asking for the return of my property (the truck) and monetary damages. The first court said the case should be filed with a different court. I re-filed the case with the suggested court and waited patiently for one year for the court dates this month. I gave my testimony on Friday two weeks ago. When we went back to court the following Friday, May 6, to hear the defendant's testimony, the new court said they should not have accepted the case in the first place because the amount of the case exceeded their limit of responsibility.
They then sent the case back to the original court! This decision [came]after my case and testimony were presented, but before the defendants answered! So now the defendants have heard my entire case (and witnesses) and have several months to prepare.
I'm back at the beginning; ready to file a new civil case with the original court.
I'm guessing that you’re beginning to sense the problems farangs have with Thai justice.
In talking with my translator after court today she lamented that this was a very, very common sequence of events for the farangs she translated for. Is it?
Cecil Morgan Owens