Police hit sour note in pub arrests

CHERNG TALAY: Several tourists from five-star hotels at Laguna Phuket narrowly escaped arrest Friday evening when they joined in a jam session at a neighboring pub. Not so lucky were well-known charity musicians Tyesan Hartall (American), Nick Paul (English), and Steve Anderson (Australian). They were arrested shortly after the tourists had left, at about 11:40 pm. They were charged with “working” without a work permit and jailed in the Cherng Talay police station. Although conceding that the trio had not been playing for wages, Pol Maj Siriwat Unyim of Cherng Talay Police Station told the Gazette that there was a jar for tips near the musicians and that it contained money. “The three were released from jail yesterday [Saturday] afternoon following a promise to appear at the station on Monday with bail of 50,000 baht each. Meanwhile, they have deposited their passports, instruments and a pick-up truck with us,” said Maj Siriwat. According to publican John Woodger of the Whispering Cock, scene of the arrests, local residents and tourists frequently gather at the pub for impromptu jam sessions on Friday evenings. “Anyone is welcome to join in,” Woodger said, “and the more the merrier.” Those participating in the jams do not receive wages. “I think the musicians would be surprised if we were to offer them payment,” said Woodger. “They just play for fun; all we provide is a venue for their talents. But there was a tip jar there on Fiday night and it was used as justification for the arrests.” Asked for his best estimate as to how much was in the jar, Woodger told the Gazette, “a little under 200 baht [approx $4.50]”. Fortunately, the Laguna tourists had left before the police arrived, as not only had they been performing without a work permit, but they had given tips to a European group who had played earlier. It is against the law in Thailand to pay monies to any foreigner for his work unless he has a permit specific to that work. Tips to amateur musicians participating in jam sessions, however, have not, so far as the Gazette has been able to determine, formed the basis for arrests prior to the current incident.

Phuket News
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