Police in Thailand investigating a tip-off about an
illegal gambling racket met some unlikely resistance —
bridge-playing British pensioners who refused to put
down their hands even as they were detained by the army.
A member of the public had alerted police to what was
said to be a seedy upstairs syndicate run by foreign
nationals. Instead of stumbling upon a criminal gang,
however, they found the group of committed bridge
The 12 Britons, reportedly including the event’s
organiser, Jeremy Watson, 74, were among 31 westerners
rounded up as more than 50 officers, including some from
the army, swooped on Pattaya Bridge Club.
It was the latest in a series of crackdowns on foreign
“offenders” by the Thai government in a town known for
its links to organised crime. The authorities suspected
that the pensioners were gambling on card games, which
is illegal in the country.
Although the British ringleaders convinced investigators
that they were only playing for points at the club,
which meets three times a week above a restaurant, they
were suspected of violating a different law, the Playing
Cards Act of 1935, which bans the possession of more
than 120 playing cards at one time.
Footage of the raid showed the elderly detainees being
marched into a van, including a Dutch woman aged 84
carrying a walking stick. The pensioners remained
defiant as officers interrogated them and began seizing
decks of cards, continuing to play their hands until
they were taken away. They were all released at 3am
after paying bail of 5,000 baht (£96).
Among the Britons, who were detained for more than 12
hours, was Barry Kenyon, 68, a former British honorary
consul who was appointed MBE for his services to
Describing the ordeal, he said that some of the group
were more than 80 years old and that a local shop had to
be drafted in to deliver food during their
interrogation. He said that they were told the charges
were being dropped just as a “black Maria” van was being
prepared to take them to court.
Police deferred further action after the Contract Bridge
League of Thailand intervened to explain that there was
no money involved.
“We had done nothing illegal. We do not play bridge for
money. But the district officials insisted they wanted
to go ahead with a case whatever,” Mr Kenyon, a former
president of the Pattaya Bridge Club, said.
“They saw the computer we had to record each player’s
bridge records and must have thought something big was
going on. It was all quite absurd.”
In addition to the 12 Britons, those detained included
three Norwegians, three Swedes, two Australians, a
German, a Dane, a Canadian, a New Zealander and a Dutch
and Irish national.
The club could still face sanctions for playing with
more cards than legally allowed and has been closed
temporarily until it gets a new licence.