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A resident of Koh Samui recently found herself locked up in jail after papers she thought were legal and correct and allowed her to run a backpacker resort were correct. However they were not. Loren has shared her story on a Go Fund Me page – here is what it says.
Hi, I’m Loren, as most of you probably know. I’m a traveler and try to be open and honest always, and as a result I have the most incredible luck. I always say it’s not always good luck, but always incredible!
This week my incredible luck was incredibly bad. I’ve spent the last 2.5 years building up a backpacker hostel in Koh Samui, Thailand. We are a simple, cheap place, but we thrive on being good to EVERYONE around us. We take our customers in like family, take on backpackers as staff to be part of that family, and take everyone out each night to local businesses to grow the community around us and show everyone a great time for the cheapest price possible. While we’re not fancy, I’m very proud of the community we’ve created. It’s been a huge ordeal operating a foreign business, and after many terrible lawyers doing paperwork wrong, and many police and immigration officers showing me what was wrong and how to fix it, I thought we were finally all correct.
But 3 days ago, police showed up at my hostel and inspected my current paperwork that just 5 days ago I was reassured in person by my lawyer was 100% correct and valid for me to legally operate my hostel under that business license. The police disagreed. They said the papers, which are 100% in Thai, weren’t correct or valid, and that I’m operating without a license. I called my lawyer and told her the police said her papers are all wrong. Instead of racing over like a lawyer is supposed to when police are holding their client, she hung up on us, and turned off her phone.
I later discovered she was not a licensed lawyer and the documents are all invalid. She knew she was busted, so she ditched me. The police just want SOMEONE to pay for it, so they hauled me off to jail. They took my passport, they took the lawyer’s card so I didn’t have her info, and they told me I had no choice but to sign the papers explaining my charges in Thai, but once I did, I would go home. I signed, and they took me downstairs and put me in a jail cell with 3 other prisoners. I spent the night on the floor there, except when I was taken out for fingerprinting and documents.
They started mentioning fines and a lot of under-the-table bribes that first were supposed to get me out right away, but after I paid, they said it would be 8am, then 10am, then after court. I messaged my mom and she called the embassy, and advised I didn’t sign the false confession, written all in Thai. When I mentioned the embassy to the police, they tore up the papers and told me now I have to just sit in jail a month and wait for them. I later learned that in Thailand you can be held 91 days without being charged, while they build their case against you. They told me they wouldn’t even consider my case again for a month if I denied wrongdoing and went after the crooked lawyer.
I’ve built my adult life on being open and honest always, no matter what. And while I was calm and relaxed, not scared or panicking through the whole ordeal, tears streamed down my face as I sacrificed all my morals and ethics and signed the paper full of lies. The officers told me to relax, now I will be free soon, and I told them it wasn’t the police, or jail, or money or anything. I used google translate and put my phone on the table with just the phrase “Sacrificed my morals” written in Thai. From that point on I kept my head down and couldn’t look anyone in the eye, even my friends and loved ones that came to help.
The next morning, 8am turned to 10, to 11, when police came and put me in a car. This officer was kind and stopped to let me pee and get some water. He offered food, but I couldn’t eat. We went to an office that was labeled Attorney General, but we only sat in that room in silence for 30 minutes. Someone gave me 20 baht and told me to pray to Buddha and put it in a display where others had done the same. Then they said I was going to see the judge. We drove up a hill where my friends were diverted and I was taken to the back of the building. They took my phone led me to a hall to a door full of bars. I realized it wasn’t the courtroom.
They put me in an furniture-less room with 15 people in prison uniforms and leg shackles. And left me there for the rest of the day. At one point a lady came with papers for me to sign entering a guilty verdict. She was the first person to speak English to me. She reiterated that if I don’t sign, I would go back to jail for at least 15 days before I could take any action again. I signed and laid back on the bare floor for a few more hours. They finally called me name, took me into a hallway where they used a webcam to connect to a guy in an office who spoke all in Thai but apparently lowered my fine (because of all the bribes I was paying) and released me. They put me back in the cell and came to ask for more money. An hour later I was finally released and they drove me home and dropped me off, after a 1000 baht tip for “gas money”.
I’m extremely fortunate to have friends and loved ones that helped me through all this, and people that forwarded me large sums of money to get me out. But I’ve been forced to shut my business until I can redo all the papers my bogus lawyer did wrong. The police told me not to trust anyone, but to go to the mainland and do them all myself. In Thai. Somehow. So, I’m out a business, for now, and bankrupted and in debt to the people that fronted money to me. One Thai family liquidated 2 months’ salary to forward me everything they could. I’m determined to pay them back quickly.
I’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from people asking how to help, even phone calls to send extraction teams in. People suggested starting a GoFundMe campaign to try to raise the money to reopen the business and get back earning before the high season in December, so I can earn enough money to pay off all these loans. So… Here I am. Asking for any little help my incredible group of friends can offer me. I don’t have much to offer in return, but if you ever come to any of my hostels, of course you’ll always have a place to stay and a friend to show you local life!