• Handcuffed In Brunei

    Gulliver from the fairy tale Gulliver's Travels had certainly experienced some situations that astonished him. I have been amazed and astonished many times over the past 12 years and the more than 50 countries visited and their responsible officials.
    Recent example of our arrest on entry to the Sultanate of the Sultan of Brunei. As you know from previous logbook entries, we have weapons on board for self-protection against worldwide growing piracy. Legitim registered, with international weapon pass, weapon safe and all that belongs to it. Rarely, there were difficulties in clearing upon presentation of these documents. Sometimes officers come aboard and seal the weapons safe, sometimes they are taken into custody for the duration of their stay, and more often an official simply puts a stamp in the documents that the guns were filed.
    Not so in Brunei!

    We had gone to the authorities early in the morning to clear in. Quarantine Bureau, Immigration, Harbor Masters and finally Customs where normally such things as guns are filed.
    Bruneis officials seem to have a break from 9am to 5pm, at least we did not really see anyone but their private mobile at one activity.
    Now that all the paperwork had been submitted, the officer and his 5 colleagues in customs, which we had disturbed at breakfast, were not sure what to do with us and informed the local police.
    Four police officers decided after agitated back and forth to inform the next higher office.

    Five more senior police officers arrived some time later. Once again I explained the facts, showed them the documents of past declarations in other countries and the very friendly and correct inspector seemed to be convinced of the facts.
    In SE Asia, however, no one makes a decision without questioning his supervisor, who in turn questions his immediate boss, etc. On this information relay, informations are edited, either subtracted or being added which turns out in the end into chaotic situation for us. Anyway, I can only explain the whole thing that this supervisor had eaten a clown for his breakfast or has drunk paint. The fact is, he ordered to arrest us immediately, handcuff us and take us to the nearest police department.

    Just remember; I wanted to properly declare legal weapons on board !!! Arrived in the police station we spent hours, handcuffed, waiting for the "special team" of the criminal police. Positive to mention that the uniformed officials of the service behaved more than friendly and correct. You saw that this misunderstanding ... or should I say this incompetence of the colleagues was something that made them feel sorry and even embarrassing. Having found this situation amusing at first, I now began to worry about it, especially with the idea of ​​being handcuffed in the back of my mind in a country where thieves' hands are amputated, where there is a recent law to stone homosexuals and on arms smuggling is officially the death penalty.
    I then got in touch with the German embassy and the ambassador was also seriously worried about the situation. Not that I have anything to debts, but you get here first in the vortex of wanna-be FBI's brings in the best case and with it a massive trouble because no one wants to admit mistakes and lose his face!


    Apparently, there were some "transmission problems" in the chain of command recipients in passing the information to the next higher instance. I imagine it like this: The first one said that a ship wants to declare its weapons properly and he does not know what the service provision is in this case. The second did not know either and in turn sent his supervisor that a ship with weapons had arrived aboard, and the next superior in the line of supervisors received the message that capable officials had found weapons aboard a yacht. The next instance was convinced that the invasion of Brunei was imminent. In any case, this could be an answer to the question of handcuffed arrest. Meanwhile, several quite "misguided" and non-expert criminal officials have arrived at a "special unit" which was immune to any reasonable reasoning and given facts. It is traded exclusively according to unknown service regulations and the specifications of the likewise ignorant plagued superiors. They conferred, kept making meetings, did not know what to do, let us wait. Body search, empty your pockets, waiting for others handcuffed. I kept in touch with the German embassy and in the background the ambassador set all diplomatic levers in motion to clarify this abstract situation. In order to make a long story short, thanks to the work of the German diplomat, another supervisor of the superior superiors suddenly appeared and freed us with apologetic words and the explanation that it was a "misunderstanding" of the handcuffs.

    Who now believes the story is over, doesn´t know S.E. Asian officials!
    Other departments now wanted to see and seal the weapons. OK, of course, usually comes an official, sometimes two of the customs for this activity on board. Not so in Brunei! A total of 16 people, including a "crime scene photographer" stood at the pier to get aboard Odin. Fortunately, a total of only 10 people fit on the police boat which drove us to Odin anchorage! The number of officials involved had increased to 38 !!! They photographed like crazy. Weapon cabinet shot and opened, weapons packed, weapons open, serial numbers, weapons repackaged, weapon cabinet without weapons, weapon cabinet with weapons, weapon cabinet closed without seal, weapon cabinet closed with seal, the weapon pass, the ammunition from above, below, right, left etc.
    Who now believes that was a hard work for the "crime scene photographer" who was informed that a total of 4 other highly motivated officials with their cell phones made exactly the same pictures. But even these representatives of Brunei were friendly and accommodating.
    After sealing, we were even invited to the restaurant for dinner and one of the lovable uniformed policemen offered us as our private tourist guide and driver for the next day, which we gratefully accepted.

    It was the most extraordinary way to make new friends on this journey

    All this is SE Asia!
    Lovable people, hospitable but sometimes overwhelmed due to given command structures and ignorance of the law with independent action.
    In retrospect, the experience is not reviewed, since the rapid action of the German Embassy in Brunei worse escalation could be prevented.
    This story is not over yet!
    The last episode of this clown act brought us the day we wanted to clear out of Brunei.
    Three officials want to come on board to inspect the 2 days old seal to clear Odin for the exit. So we went with the police boat to Odin.
    As all the fotos were taken another hero of the civil service, this important representative of state authority was personally convinced of the perfect condition of the seal.

    We thought it would all be done, but as we we´re enjoying our lunch at the yacht club on the terrace, we suddenly saw people aboard the Odin!
    Hurriedly I drove the dingy towards Odin where the men in uniform is still hanging on the side about to start their boat.
    Clearly, it's illegal to enter a ship without permission and continue like that. After talking with their supervisor, it still was not clear for me why they went on board.
    End of the story of the in and out of the sultanate of Brunei.

    All in all, we were only four days in the rich oil state. No alcohol, cigarettes are forbidden, nightlife not available, not even the in S.E. Asia omnipresent karaoke.
    One thing should mentioned, however, Brunei is after Singapore is the cleanest and safest country we visited on our trip through Southeast Asia.