Locked-up in Thailand: 10 foreigners caught with Drugs in Thailand
To be caught doing a drug-related crime in Thailand is a huge nightmare, especially if you’re a foreigner. The country takes its drug laws very seriously that law enforcement officials even conduct nightly searches in nightclubs to inspect if anyone, citizen or not, is in possession of illegal drugs. For this reason our properties in Bangkok and Koh Phangan have zero-tolerance drug policies.
The punishment for violating drug laws can be severe, like life imprisonment— or worse, the death penalty. If you had any questions about doing drugs in Thailand then you should take a look through this article, all drugs even prescription drugs come with significant risks in Thailand.
If you get caught with weed in Thailand you are also going to jail – Our advice is simply not to risk taking or getting caught with any drugs in Thailand at all – if you do happen to be caught with anything always try to buy yourself out of the situation.
A bribe for possession of marijuana is around $500.00 if the policeman takes the bribe, he may just add ‘ attempting to bribe a police officer ‘ to your list of crimes of course.
Here’s our list of 10 foreigners who were caught in drug-related acts in Thailand.
10. Lance Whitmore – 50 Years for ecstasy / MDMA
Drugs in Thailand – Image courtesy of news.thaivisa.com
Former British soldier Lance Whitmore was sentenced to 50 years in jail for drug dealing in Thailand. Two hundred pills of ecstasy were reportedly found in the possession of the 27-year-old Whitmore and his Australian friend in a resort in Pattaya. Further investigation revealed 60 more pills at his Aussie friend’s flat.
Hoping for a shorter prison sentence, Whitmore pleaded guilty—but the final sentence was 50 years in the notorious Klong Prem Central Prison in Bangkok without parole.
Whitmore’s parents also appealed for a shorter sentence, fearing for their son’s safety in the squalid, brutal, and horrendous prison environment in Klong Prem.
“It’s worse than a POW camp… There are cockroaches everywhere and they feed the prisoners rotten rice and fish heads,” said Whitmore’s father, Russell. He also said that the prisoners sleep on a concrete floor and that his son is crammed with 74 other prisoners in a cell block designed for only 20 inmates.
Whitmore’s parents also claimed that he was set up by the secret police that go around targeting tourists. On the other hand, his family also claimed that Whitmore was not in his right mind when he dealt with illegal drugs—he was still grief-stricken after losing his 25-year-old fiancée to meningitis.
9. Kieran Barry – Pending sentencing for weed in Thailand
Drugs in Thailand – Image courtesy of www.mirror.co.uk
Irishman Kieran Barry was arrested outside the Chiang Mai Night Plaza Boutique Hotel after he was allegedly caught attempting to sell a kilo of weed—to an undercover police. According to reports, the 23-year-old Barry was trapped in a sting operation led by the Crime Suspension Division in Chiang Mai.
After his arrest, the young Irishman confessed to purchasing and selling illegal drugs online. Reports say that Barry caught the attention of police for selling weed on the Internet—in different varieties, such as Chocolate Thai, Acapulco, Maui Waui, and Gold.
The undercover cop pretended to be a client and contacted Barry, and Barry, then, attempted to sell him 1 kilo of cannabis for 200,000 baht.
The arrest at Chiang Mai Night Plaza was captured in a video and posted online. In the video, Barry was claiming that he was set-up: “He’s f***ing smart, man! He’s smart, he played me…I had no money; I was looking for a joint.”
Arrested in 2015, Barry will not go on trial until the end of 2016 or early 2017—and if found guilty, will face 50 years in jail.
8. Sandra Gregory – Death sentence for drugs in Thailand
Drugs in Thailand – Image courtesy of www.express.co.uk
While travelling and living for two years in Bangkok, British Sandra Gregory caught dengue fever and was running out of cash. Broke and desperate to return to her home country, she agreed to smuggle 89 grams of heroin out of Bangkok and into Tokyo for £1,000. Gregory claimed that it was fellow British Robert Lock who offered her the drug smuggling gig.
After receiving a tip-off, security personnel in Bangkok’s Dong Muang Airport detained Gregory, Lock, and Lock’s girlfriend. During an interrogation with Lock, the personnel noticed that Gregory was nervous. The three were searched and X-rayed, and Gregory, who was then 28 years old, was found in possession of illegal drugs—inside her body.
The King of Thailand initially sentenced Gregory to death, but her sentence was reduced to life imprisonment, and eventually downgraded to just 25 years of jail time.
She served 4 years in the Lard Yao women’s facility within the Klong Prem Central Prison, and in 1997 was transferred to UK to serve her remaining 21 years of jail time. But in July 2000, she was granted a Royal Pardon by the King of Thailand—the result of her parents’ relentless campaign for her release.
After her prison experience, Gregory published a memoir, “Forget You Had a Daughter,” which was released in 2002. After her release, she also enrolled at Oxford University to study geography.
7. and 6. Paul Hayward and Warren Fellows – Old time heroin
Australian Paul Hayward was a professional rugby player for the Newton Jets. In 1978, after the end of the football season, he was recruited by his brother-in-law, Neddy Smith, a notorious drug lord in Sydney, to arrange a heroin shipment in Bangkok with Warren Fellows. Fellows had already been working for Smith as a drug trafficker, but this would be his first international job.
Hayward and Fellows, who became best friends, did not know that the Bangkok trip would be the beginning of their hellish existence.
While still in Australia preparing for their trip to Bangkok, Fellows was tipped off by a friend that he was under surveillance for drug importation. Fellows relayed this predicament to Smith but the latter angrily dismissed the tip-off and threatened Fellows if he refuses to go through with the job.
Reluctantly, Fellows, along with Hayward, travelled to Bangkok and met with William Sinclair. The trio, then, proceeded to Sinclair’s bar, and unbeknownst to them, the Thai police were listening in on their conversation.
On October 12, 1978, Thai police raided Fellows’ and Hayward’s rooms at the Montien Hotel—and they discovered 8.5 kilograms of heroin. Hayward, Fellows, and Sinclair were sent to Klong Prem Central Prison, moved to several other prisons until they ended up in Bang Kwang Central Prison. Fellows and Sinclair received life imprisonment, while Hayward was sentenced to 30 years.
Both received a Royal Pardon, Hayward was released in 1989, and Fellows in 1990. In 1992, Hayward died of heroin overdose. Meanwhile, Fellows, who had attempted suicide several times during his jail time inside the brutal and traumatizing Thai prison, published an autobiography titled “The Damage Done,” which became a best-seller. However, the horrors of his prison time in Thailand continued to haunt and torture him.
5. Taylor Laird – prescription drugs in Thailand with a prescription
Image courtesy of itech.dickinson.edu
Seventeen-year-old Taylor Laird was jailed for two nights after being caught with diazepam, a calming pill normally used to treat anxiety and marketed as valium.
The New Zealand-born Laird was on a motorbike taxi when they were pulled over by the police because Laird speculated, the bike was partially on a pedestrian lane. Laird was searched and he was found in possession of diazepam, which is illegal in Thailand without prescription.
“I was told by people you could get valium if you wanted to go to sleep and it was legal to buy it. Then they took me to the cop lock-up, which was like living hell,” Laird recalled, shocked that the pills were illegal. He also said that he bought diazepam to help him sleep after taking too much energy drink.
Despite having no idea about the law on diazepam’s prescription requirement, Laird was forced to stay in a juvenile community for 6 weeks to wait for a court decision. His parents spent about $10,000 on flights to assist and support him – he got back home 6 months later.
4. Mark Robert Coutelas – 10 years for crystal meth in Thailand
Image courtesy of www.abc.net.au
A television personality in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, Mark Robert Coutelas was famously known in Australia for endorsing the lemon-flavoured Solo soft drink. And “Solo Man” turned out to be a wild party animal with no intentions of stopping anytime soon. In 2014, his hardcore hedonistic lifestyle—women, guns, and drugs— got the better of him, and he eventually found himself locked up in Thailand.
“I simply never settled down. I always loved to party,” told Coutelas during an interview in his prison cell.
Coutelas had moved from his motherland to Thailand in 2007 after losing money on his Australian property. In 2014, Police raided his apartment unit at the Green Mango apartment complex and they discovered crystal meth, a handgun, and ammunition.
Coutelas was jailed for a day and was bailed out. However, weeks later, he was caught again in possession of the same drug at the same apartment. Coutelas was allegedly selling meth—or ice.
“We set up a plainclothes officer to buy some ya ice from him at his apartment.” said a tourist police, “And we found him in possession of four packages of the drug with a total weight of 2.45 grams.”
Coutelas is known as the first Australian arrested under the Thai Martial Law. He was 53 years old then. He was sentenced to a minimum of 10 years behind bars.
3. Robert Halliwell – Drug smuggling in Thailand
Image courtesy of www.theguardian.com
Australian Robert Halliwell, a former builder and surfboard-maker, fell into drug addiction in the early 1970s. In the ‘80s, he escaped drug charges against him in Australia and fled to Thailand—where he continued living as a drug addict.
Twenty years later, in 2000, the 57-year-old Halliwell, along with fellow drug addict and friend, Holly Deane-Johns, was arrested in Thailand for heroin possession. The pair was captured two months after they posted a parcel containing 11 grams of heroin to Australia.
Thai narcotics eventually found 110 grams of heroin in his residence and another 15 grams in Deane-Johns’s flat. However, they were not found guilty of drug trafficking—just guilty of possessing heroin. Also, at the time of Halliwell’s arrest, he was also accused of presenting a fake British passport.
Halliwell pleaded not guilty and received life imprisonment, while Deane-Johns pleaded guilty and ended up with just a 31-year sentence.
“I knew it would be something like this. If you plead not guilty, they give you the big one. I guess you win some, you lose some,” Halliwell said on their respective verdicts.
2. Patricia Cahill – Too young for the death penalty
Image courtesy of news.bbc.co.uk
Seventeen-year-old Patricia Cahill sparked huge media attention in 1990 when she was arrested for attempting to smuggle 32 kilograms of heroin to Amsterdam from Thailand, along with best friend 18-year-old Karyn Smith.
Both hailing from Birmingham, the girls were notorious for having allegedly smuggled the largest ever haul at that time— £4million worth of heroin found in shampoo bottles.
Because Cahill was just a minor, the execution was out of the question. She was, instead sentenced to 18 years of imprisonment. Her friend, Smith, was sentenced to 25. Three years later, both were sent back home after a Royal Pardon. It was the British embassy in Bangkok that relentlessly pushed for the release of the girls.
This drug smuggling drama began when Cahill and Smith found themselves in Bangkok after a British man offered to pay their way. The girls were caught in Bangkok International Airport after their baggage was searched.
Cahill and Smith claimed they had no idea they were carrying drugs, but Smith later on, confessed that she knew that she was smuggling something illicit but she had no idea what they were.
The 1999 film “Brokedown Palace,” starring Claire Danes, was said to have been based on Cahill and Smith’s story.
1. Nola Blake – death by firing squad
Image courtesy of specials.daytondailynews.com
In 1987, Australian Nola Blake was arrested in Thailand for drug smuggling. The 35-year-old woman from New South Wales was sentenced to death—the first ever Westerner (and a Western woman at that) to receive death by firing squad.
Blake’s arrest happened in January 1987 outside a department store located across Lumphini Park, along with her husband, Paul Hudson, and their baby son, Todd. Thai police had already been monitoring the couple, and when they saw Blake and Hudson hand over a large sum of money to a Thai man in an exchange of 8 packets of drugs, which they stuffed in their baby’s stroller, they went in for the arrest. The Thai man was also captured.
Both Blake and Hudson were drug addicts and reported to have been mid-level drug dealers, supplying small quantities of drugs around Sydney. They were also reported to have been going in and out of Bangkok in a span of 10 years. The married couple was charged with possession of illegal drugs with intent to sell and were sentenced to death.
After a series of court proceedings and appeals, their sentence was downgraded to life. It was in 1991 when Blake’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and she was locked in Klong Prem Central Prison.
Blake eventually became a prison trustee who learned to speak Thai fluently. When Sandra Gregory (see #8) was imprisoned in Klong Prem, Blake became her translator.
In 1998, after spending 11 years and 2 months in Klong Prem, Blake received a Royal Pardon and she returned home in March of 1998.
Helpful articles and blog posts on drugs and drug laws in Thailand:
We only recommend writers and blogs that we read regularly and believe will deliver substantial value to our readers. The following is our top picks of articles we think are worth reading for you to get more insight into other drug-related incidents in Thailand, as well as more information on the country’s drug laws:
- “A traveller’s guide to Thailand’s laws” by Phil Sylvester of World Nomads
- “Drugs in Thailand” by Real life Thailand
- “Backpacker True Story: Getting Caught with Drugs on a Gap Year in Thailand” by The Travel Hack
- “What to do when you are arrested for illegal drugs in Thailand?” by Siam Legal
- “How to feel safe in Thailand” by Lizi Oldham
- “The Dark Side of Thailand’s Island Paradise” by MikeE’s Travels – The Adventures of Just Another Kiwi on his OE
And if you wish to examine drug-related crimes in other parts of Southeast Asia, you may also check out Drugs in the Philippines – Backpacker advice.
Do you have an awesome link to a relevant well-written article that should be included here? If so, hit us up on Twitter by following and messaging us the link. Looking for the best budget stays in Bangkok? Check out our guide to Bangkok for further information.
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