The intervention of a considerate, off duty police officer saved a western foreigner the nightmarish scenario of being arrested and legally prosecuted for theft in Thailand on Wednesday after he attempted to steal food items at a Bangkok Shopping Centre.
A western man was detained by a security guard assisted by a passing Grab driver on Wednesday in Bangkok for the theft of food items. However, he was saved from the inside of a Thai prison by the discreet and heartwarming intervention of an off duty police officer.
The Coronavirus crisis is pushing many people in Thailand to their financial and mental limits as the lockdown continues for many Thai workers and particularly for those dependent on the tourism sector.
There are also hundreds of thousands of foreigners, many of them westerners, left stranded in the kingdom at this time.
Most are faring quite well and are thankful that Thailand has emerged as one of the least risky places on the planet right now for this killer disease.
Western man driven to stealing food at the Esplanade Shopping Centre in Bangkok this Wednesday
But not all are like this. On Wednesday, a foreigner at the Esplanade Shopping centre in the Ratchada area of Bangkok, near Ratchadaphisek, reached his limit and resorted to petty crime to feed himself.
He was quickly nabbed by an alert security guard doing his job when he attempted to conceal several snacks and food items under his top.
He was detained by the security officer. The man resisted violently, knowing full well what the consequences would be. He was brought under control only with the help of a passing Grab driver who came to the assistance of the security guard in apprehending the lawbreaker.
Police summoned to take the man away for legal prosecution and probably a spell in a Thai prison
The arrested man was shouting ‘embassy’ when he was first tackled by the security guard.
Police officers from the local station were summoned. The arrested man was almost certainly facing time held in a police holding cell followed by a longer period of time in one of Bangkok’s notorious prisons.
Theft is a serious legal matter in Thailand and one deeply frowned upon in the kingdom where personal property, even belonging to large companies, is considered sacrosanct.
Unless a person in his situation could make full restitution, it is unlikely that they could avoid a stiff jail sentence under normal circumstances. There is a policy of prosecuting offenders.
Most certainly, prior to this virus outbreak, any foreigner caught committing crime faced immediate cancellation of their visa and the full weight of the law unless they could afford to pay full compensation and other expenses.
Westerner got a break from an unlikely source
However, this week, the western man caught a break.
An off duty police officer from a neighbouring station intervened in the matter.
He brought the apprehended man’s goods in a trolley to the checkout and paid his bill.
He handed over a ฿1,000 note and when the assistant gave him back his change, he gave it to the westerner.
Advised him to contact his embassy immediately and arrange for assistance with his predicament
He advised the man he had saved not to make another attempt to break the law and immediately to go and make contact with his embassy.
He had already ascertained that the foreigner’s legal status in Thailand was in order.
He appears to have been one of the last visitors to have arrived in Thailand towards the end of March or early April and his visa had already been extended automatically until July 31st.
Avid Onlookers stood watching as it involved a western foreigner who was clearly desperate
The action taken by the policeman drew praise from quite a few people who were standing to watch the spectacle of a foreign westerner being arrested and taken away for breaking the law.
Many had an opinion on what they had just seen.
‘The policeman realised that the foreigner wasn’t stealing money,’ said one witness while another made a similar observation.
‘Usually, thieves take alcohol or expensive things but when the policeman checked the goods, he saw that the man only had food and he was trying to steal them because he was hungry,’ said another Thai local.
Members of the public highly impressed by the Thai policeman who also addressed them in explanation
The members of the public, standing by in the shop, were highly impressed by the police officer. After taking the man to the door, he let him go and returned to briefly address them as the stood and watched.
The officer explained that, at this time, the police and other authorities had to use their discretion as there were a lot of similar foreigners in the kingdom right now suffering hardship.
One of the group agreed.
‘So many people are struggling at the moment because of the pandemic, so it was nice to see a policeman using common sense and helping those who need it,’ the bystander commented.
Another bystander observed that the mood of the crowd changed from hostility towards the lawbreaker, after he was wrestled into submission by the security guard, to something else after the policeman intervened.
This was sympathy, warmth and a sense of goodwill.