59 year-old Gerard Jan Joling represented The Netherlands in both the 1988 and 2009 Eurovision Song Contest. Now he’s represented himself in a Thai jail cell following a show in Pattaya and had to Sing Sing for his supper.
After the performance, Joling went out on the town with one of his sound engineers. A couple of Thai officers approached the pair and pointed out that the sound engineer’s electronic cigarette was a banned product and escorted the entire party to a nearby police station.
Joling describes the events: “He was immediately locked up in a glass cage and was immediately told that he could be sentenced to five years in prison if 900 euros were not immediately paid. That seemed a ridiculous amount to me and that is why I started to get involved, but that I should not have done that. Then I was suddenly in that cage and I was not allowed to leave.”
Their protestations came to a swift end once the singer joined his friend in the slammer. He added: “I think it would be good to warn people who go to Thailand that an e-cigarette can put you in serious trouble. At least we were quite shocked.”
The UK Foreign Office advised all travellers about Thailand’s approach to ecigs in 2017. It highlighted the statement from Thai officials: “You can’t bring vaporisers (like e-cigarettes) or refills into Thailand. These items are likely to be confiscated and you could be fined or sent to prison for up to 10 years if convicted. The sale or supply of e-cigarettes and similar devices is also banned and you could face a heavy fine or up to 5 years imprisonment if found guilty. Several British Nationals have been arrested for possession of vaporisers and e-cigarettes.”
When a grandmother was arrested for selling vape gear, harm reduction expert Clive Bates commented: “Prison for e-cigs, but cigarettes are available everywhere. This is the work of so-called public health groups, but it is perverse, authoritarian and harmful all at once. I hope Mike Bloomberg isn’t funding it.”
Despite his experiences, Joling is still a fan of Thailand. “I had a great time there and I have had it in that country before. But on the other hand: they fix you in such a way and then you have to see how you get out. That mess is as corrupt as the consumption.”