Unusual suspects: Kiwi among elderly tourist bridge players arrested in Thailand

A New Zealander and two Australians were among 32 ageing Westerners arrested and detained for 12 hours for playing bridge in Pattaya, a Thai seaside resort city renowned for its seedy nightlife.

More than 40 police, soldiers and local officials disrupted the genteel afternoon session in what they portrayed as a swoop on illegal gambling.

But police later conceded they found no evidence of money changing hands in the second floor Jomtien and Pattaya Bridge Club that has been holding bridge sessions since 1994.

An elderly bridge player is questioned by a Thai policeman at a Jomtien & Pattaya Bridge Club meeting in Pattaya.
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An elderly bridge player is questioned by a Thai policeman at a Jomtien & Pattaya Bridge Club meeting in Pattaya.

They said the gathering violated a 1935 Playing Cards Act that prohibits the possession of more than 120 playing cards at any one time.

Seized decks of cards also lacked official government excise markings, police said.

Computers and books with the results of the bridge games were also seized.

Bridge players keep playing as authorities raid a Jomtien & Pattaya Bridge Club meeting in Pattaya.
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Bridge players keep playing as authorities raid a Jomtien & Pattaya Bridge Club meeting in Pattaya.

Video of the raid showed the players looking confused as they sat at tables with cards in their hands.

It also showed the detainees, including an 84-year-old Dutch woman with a walking stick, climbing into an open-sided police van.

The players were released from Pattaya police station at 3am after paying the equivalent of $194 bail.

"It was a thoroughly nasty experience," one of the detainees said. 

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A representative of the Contract Bridge League of Thailand travelled to Pattaya on Thursday to try to convince police not to pursue charges.

Police have not yet referred the cases to court, pending further discussions.

Gambling is illegal in Thailand but Thai bridge enthusiasts told police the group's members were only playing for points.

As well as the Australians, those arrested included 12 British nationals, three Norwegians, three Swedes, a German, a Dane, and a Canadian and New Zealander.

Pattaya is a popular retirement destination for Western foreigners.

But the city also has a reputation for go-go-bars and being a haven for foreign criminals.

In November an Australian former Hells Angels member was abducted from his Pattaya villa in broad daylight.

His naked and brutalised body was found a few hours later in a grave outside the city.

 - Sydney Morning Herald

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