Fighting Fire With Fire

Bruce arrived in Bangkok from Australia eager for adventure. He was young, naïve, and greedy but he knew there were opportunities here if you kept your options open. He got a job at an English school on Sukhumvit Road while looking for other ways to supplement his income. He ran into Vichai the pimp in Patpong one night. They made some small talk first and then Vichai soon got around to what he wanted to say.

“Khun Bruce, you like make much money fast?”

“What do I have to do, Vichai?”

“Ah! Good. I like you velly much. I trust you. You come go with me. I take you to meet man help us make plenty money.”

They piled into a taxi and drove down to Klong Toey. The streets were narrow. Dark shadows lurked everywhere. They pulled up outside a decrepit hut and knocked on the door. It cracked open and one eye checked them out before swinging the door open just enough for them to slide inside. A single feeble bulb hung from the tin roof.

Vichai led Bruce to a dark alcove where he could vaguely see two men sitting at a table. They motioned the newcomers to sit down. A babble of Thai between them and Vichai established that they were who the men expected. Then one of them spoke in English.

“My friend you, he say you want make money. You no speak anyone else?” one of the men asked.

“No, I can keep my mouth shut.” Bruce replied. These men intimidated him. They looked very nasty and he had no doubt that if he got involved with them he had better keep his mouth shut or else.

“OK. I think you can do. Vichai he tell you what to do. You no worry. We help you, make sure no problem. You go now and listen only to Vichai, no speak any man else, ok?”

Bruce nodded and they both got up, went outside to the waiting taxi and headed back to Patpong. When they got there Vichai took Bruce to a coffee shop and he told Bruce what he had to do.

“You get on plane to Hong Kong and stay three days at this hotel.” He handed Bruce the address of one of the best hotels in Hong Kong. All expenses paid, no problem. On last day you go this address.” Vichai said. “The man there, he give you two big suitcases. They very heavy with calculators and watches. No drugs. No problem.”

Bruce nodded, and Vichai went on. “When you get off plane at Don Muang, you go through green lane. My friend he work in customs, him name Khun Soropong Kittisomsak. He no problem. You walk past him and catch taxi to my apartment. You get free holiday in Hong Kong and I pay you 50,000 baht when you bring suitcases me.”

They spent the next hour talking and planning the trip. Bruce was scheduled to leave in two days, so he told his boss at the English school he needed a week off to do a visa run.

He flew off to Hong Kong, checked into the hotel and had a great time. On the last day he went to the address he had been given and sure enough he was handed two suitcases. He piled them into the taxi, went to Kai Tak airport and checked in.

Four hours later in Bangkok he picked up the suitcases from the luggage carousel and headed for the green lane. He started to waltz through but the customs officer stopped him and asked him if he had anything to declare. Bruce looked at the nametag, but it wasn’t the name he had been given. But he smiled at the man and said that he only had two suitcases filled with his clothes. The officer asked him to open the suitcases. By now, Bruce was getting worried. What had gone wrong? Where was Khun Soropong? He had no choice, so he opened the first suitcase and a glittering array of watches greeted their eyes. The officer immediately called for support and they led Bruce away to a room where he was questioned. He wouldn’t tell them who he was working for, so they arrested him and slung him into immigration jail.

A few hours later Vichai turned up looking very angry. “You say what to police?” he asked.

“Nothing. I guarantee you I didn’t tell them anything, just like you told me. They think I own the suitcases.” Bruce told him.

“OK,” said Vichai looking relieved, “you no say anything I help you. When you get out of here, you must run away back home and no come back here again. You have passport?”

Bruce shook his head. The police had taken it away as soon as they arrested him.

“No problem. We have plan.” Vichai said. “Don’t worry. I get you out of here and we help you leave Thailand. Velly solly about this. Khun Soropong, he have flu. No can come work today. Too late to try tell you.”

Bruce was crestfallen. Suddenly he was looking at an ignomious flight home, if he didn’t go to court and have to spend years in jail here.

It took Vichai another three hours to get Bruce out on bail. They took a taxi to Bruce’s place where Vichai told him his plan. Vichai had seen pictures of Bruce’s brother, Tony. They looked very similar, so Vichai told Bruce to call him and ask him to come to Thailand urgently. They only had two weeks before Bruce was scheduled to go to court.

When Tony arrived, Bruce took his passport, jumped on a plane and flew back to Australia. Meanwhile, Tony went to the embassy and reported that he had lost his passport on the beach at Pattaya. They accepted his story and a few days later he was issued with a new passport and he too flew back to Australia.

It wasn’t until after Bruce was supposed to appear in court that Scott, the owner of the English school, started to feel the repercussions. Even though he had not been involved at all, the police came knocking at his door one morning looking for Bruce. Scott told them that he hadn’t seen Bruce since he left to do a visa run a few weeks ago and he assumed that Bruce had not been able to renew his visa.

The police didn’t believe him. They kept coming back almost every day asking for Bruce. They also set two plainclothes policemen to sit at a noodle stall opposite the school. It’s not hard to pick Thai plainclothes cops. They just change into a t-shirt and still wear their regulation police trousers and boots.

Each time Scott drove up to the gate to drive into his house, one of the policemen would run over and ask him where Bruce was. This went on for two weeks and Scott was getting heartily tired of being harassed. One day he snapped. So as soon as he parked the car he went inside and called the emergency police number.

“There are two kamoeys (burglars) sitting outside my house. They have been there for a few days checking my house. I think they are planning to break into my house.”

Scott’s Thai wasn’t all that good, but when the police heard the word, ‘kamoeys’ they sent a squad of ten police to Scott’s front gate within minutes. One of them with three stars on his shoulder spoke good English. He asked Scott where the kamoeys were. Scott pointed at the two plainclothes police across the road at the noodle stall.

Whoosh! The police squad descended on the two cops and a big noisy discussion ensued. Meanwhile, people from up and down the soi swarmed around to watch the fun and games. Scott just stood there looking as innocent as possible.

Soon, the three star policeman came back and said, “Er, Mr. Scott, those two men are plainclothes policemen. They are looking for someone who works for you.”

Scott told him what he had told the two plainclothes cops before; he hadn’t seen Bruce since he left on a visa run. He knew nothing about Bruce getting arrested, and please leave him alone.

The policeman nodded and apologized. He told Scott that he wouldn’t be bothered again and all the police left.

But it didn’t quite end there. A few days later Scott came home one evening to find his wife in tears. She told him that one of the plainclothes policemen had come to see her armed with a shotgun and threatened her that if she didn’t tell him where Bruce was he would come back and kill her.

That was the last straw for Scott. He wasn’t going to have that happening in his house. He got on the phone to a friend of his who owned a private investigation and security company and asked what he could do. His friend told him there wasn’t anything he could do. He was dealing with the police, remember?

Scott thought about it and then decided the best way to fight fire was with fire, and the only way to do that was to take the battle to the cop with the shotgun. He asked his friend to watch the cop and compile a complete dossier on him, his family, and his daily life.

A week later he received the report. It was nearly one inch thick. After reading through it he called the shotgun-wielding cop and told him that he had a complete dossier on him. He told the cop his wife’s name, his kids’ names, and even described his dog. He also told the cop where he lived, and where he had been for the last week, including a couple of places he was sure he wouldn’t want his wife to know about. Then Scott told the cop that if he ever came near his house or if anything happened to his wife, Scott would kill him.

There was shocked silence on the other end, then the cop grunted that he would not be bothering Scott again and hung up the phone. That was the last Scott ever heard of Bruce or the cop. But just to be sure, Scott moved his business to new premises within a week.

NOTE: The names and places have been changed to protect the innocent. Scott still lives in Bangkok and he swears this story is true. It happened way back in 1986. No one has ever seen Bruce in Thailand again.