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Annice Smoel after her Phuket court fine, and set to fly

'I Apologise to Phuket for Beer Mat Australians'

Friday, May 22, 2009
AN AUSTRALIAN has written to Phuketwan seeking to apologise ''to the Governor and People of Phuket for my fellow Australians' behavior pertaining to stealing a Beer Mat from the Aussie Bar in Patong.''

The email is signed by Peter Badger of ''Victoria-Aus.''

''The majority of Aussie tourists are well behaved, but there are a few that seem to think they are beyond the reproach of the Law, especially after a drink or two,'' the email says.

''I have always found the Locals and especially the Police in general very polite and helpful, but alas we cannot please everyone.

''The media here in Australia are certainly making a meal of this recent situation, and the person in question will be endeavoring to sell her story not only to TV but to the magazines, and in doing so making a lot of money out of this situation.

''It must be so very embarrassing to the Tourist Board of Phuket at a time that is considered a bad time to travel due to the World Recession.

''But please be assured that the great majority of Australians do not sympathise with this woman in any way, we can only feel sorry for her four children she left here with her husband to look after.

''I have been holidaying in Thailand for many years now and will continue to do so, and so will my many, many friends.

''Regards, Peter Badger, Victoria-Aus''

Interest in the case of Annice Smoel, who was allegedly the victim of a prank by friends, continued in the Australian press and on radio today.

Levels of indignation in Australia have reached the point where many people say that will not visit Thailand because of the treatment of Ms Smoel, 36, whose tearful reunion with her children in Melbourne received extensive coverage.

Exceptionally high government intervention brought the case to an abrupt conclusion on Wednesday, when the Governor, Dr Wichai Praisa-nob, received two phone calls: One from the Tourism and Sport Minister, Chumpon Silpa-archa, and the other from Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.

This was clearly a big deal. The fate of the mother of four appears to have become such a high-priority issue in Canberra that government -to-government level dealings about it may not have included the Australian embassy in Bangkok.

The governor has been talking to senior ministers in Bangkok while trying to organise the now-postponed Asean Plus Six summit involving Australia and 15 other nations for June on Phuket.

But to get two calls from two ministers in one morning would be exceedingly rare, perhaps unprecedented.

In both calls, the governor was urged to intervene in the Annice Smoel case.

By 3pm on Wednesday, the court hearing had been held, the governor himself had paid the 1000 baht fine, said he was sorry about the affair, wai-ed Ms Smoel and wished her well.

Ms Smoel was teary, thankful, and on her way home.

After the high-level phone calls, the governor had gone straight to the court, which happens to be just around the corner from his office at Provincial Hall in Phuket City.

He sat down with the Chief Prosecutor, Bantoon Tongton, and asked: ''Can that court case be decided today?''

The judge involved in the case, Nattaporn Dhechawoot, decided the matter quickly.

Ms Smoel was reluctant to plead guilty but a small fine (which the governor paid) and a suspended sentence represented the fast route home.

When asked on Tuesday, one senior police officer involved in the case, Police Major Songsern Preecha, told a reporter that the documents had not at that stage been sent to the court.

It's amazing how fast the legal system can work when Canberra calls Bangkok, and Bangkok calls Phuket.

A similar case involving British tourist Simon Burrowes, who faced a count of being impolite to an official, took three months to reach court. His government barely mounted a squeak on his behalf.

Mr Burrowes eventually flew home last weekend, having paid a 500 baht fine, but after losing his non-refundable flight fare, his job, and his rented apartment back in Britain.

He also served three weeks in Phuket Jail, largely because British officials could not establish quickly that his passport was genuine.

Like Ms Smoel, Mr Burrowes was reluctant to plead guilty to a crime he felt he had not committed.

But the option of pleading not guilty can lead to a lengthy court hearing at a later date, with the possibility of jail as an outcome.

At Immigration Headquarters on the other side of Phuket City on Wednesday, around noon, the phone rang for the superintendent, Police Colonel Chanatpol Yongbunjerd.

It was his superior officer in Bangkok, Immigration Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Chatchawal Suksomjit.

The message from Bangkok was again made clear: please process this case as fast as possible.

Ms Smoel would need to have her fingerprints taken and a new passport-like photograph shot as part of the formal deportation process.

By the time she arrived at Immigration from the court, everyone was prepared to make her processing as smooth as possible.

She and husband Darren were on the plane for home from Bangkok to Melbourne by 9.30pm that evening.

The rights and wrongs of the matter will probably be argued for a long time yet in Patong's Aussie Bar, and places just like it in Australia and elsewhere.

Phuketwan believes that the Smoel case, and even more significantly the Burrowes case, highlight the need for a court system that allows tourists facing petty crimes to be dealt with immediately.

That way, the punishment fits the crime.

And Thailand will maintain its reputation for hospitality of the kind that 99.99 percent of tourists enjoy . . . . without a horror story to tell when they return home.

What the Royal Thai Consulate in Sydney had to say

Dear all,

The Royal Thai Consulate General appreciates your comments and concern about the case of Annice Smoel who was prosecuted in Thailand for the act of theft and would like point out some fact and opinion as follows : -

1. Many people misunderstood that Annice Smoel was sentenced to 5-year imprisonment and sent their complaints to the Embassy and the Consulate General. In fact, the Thai court has found Annice guilty in the act of theft and then sentenced her to 6-month imprisonment and 1000 Baht fine. The imprisonment came with one-year suspension which means that she will not serve 6 months in jail unless she committed any other crime in Thailand again in the course of 1 year from now. According to the Thai Criminal Code, the act of theft is an offence with 5-year imprisonment as maximum penalty. The sentence for Annice's case is much shorter than the maximum penalty since the court has also taken the level of seriousness of the crime and the value of the stolen object into consideration.

2. It is unfortunate that the incident between Annice and the bar owner who are both Australian could not be resolved among them, and eventually had to be brought to the Thai court.

3. The case against Annice has been conducted with transparency in accordance with procedures as provided by the law, as should be if a similar case occurs in other countries. She has been accorded her legal rights.

4. For those who feel that Thai law is ''harsh'' or ''draconian,'' it is noteworthy that under the Australian laws the maximum penalty for the act of theft is 10-year imprisonment. (while it is only 5-year under the Thai laws) A person who commits the same offence will be brought to the same legal process in Australia, regardless of the nationality.

5. The consulate expresses its sympathy to Annice and her family for this difficult situation. However, the humanitarian aspect and the legal aspect should be treated as two separate issues.

6. There are always people who have different views in the same story. Please spend a few minutes to read comments in the website of the Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph that came from your fellow Australian who might share totally different opinion from you. Adam Walters writes: ''Thailand is about two thirds the size of NSW but with 12 times the population and its reputation for a harsh legal system is second only to Singapore, where even graffiti crimes are punished with an old-fashioned caning. The misdemeanors of Australians living dangerously in South-East Asia have been so well documented over the years, ignorance of the laws and their consequences is now no valid defence.'' Andrew Bolt writes: ''And yesterday came news of another 'joke' - six Australians arrested in London for spraying graffiti. Excuse me, but do we have foreign tourists stealing, screaming, swearing, defacing, boozing and whoring in our cities quite the way foreigners have ours in theirs? It strikes me that our public manners in fact no longer meet the standard required in most other countries, and improving them might make us a lot safer when we travel.''

Phuketwan Phuket News

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Latest A report in a Christian newspaper says that children have been seeking jobs in bars and clubs on Phuket because of the economic downturn.
'Children in Phuket Bars, Clubs' Claim Rejected

Tattooed Westerner Found Dead on Nai Harn Beach
Latest A gruesome discovery has been made on Phuket's Nai Harn beach: the body of a man tattooed with a dragon, a dolphin and a tiger. Police say murder is one of many possibilities.
Tattooed Westerner Found Dead on Nai Harn Beach

Condo Seminar Told of Phuket's Titles Problems
Latest A complete documentation of all Phuket land titles should be ready by the end of June, a large seminar at Laguna has been told. More than 300 people turned out.
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Freed Aussie Mum Says: 'I'm So Glad It's Over'
Updating News Annice Smoel is free and heading for Australia. Phuketwan was present when the Governor of Phuket paid her fine and wished her well this afternoon.
Freed Aussie Mum Says: 'I'm So Glad It's Over'

Phuket's Beer Mat Martyrs and Cultural Chasms
Opinion/Analysis The Annice Smoel case is sad for her, and for her four children. Yet it could all have been prevented if her Government had been proactive and media savvy.
Phuket's Beer Mat Martyrs and Cultural Chasms

Recent Phuketwan MediaWATCH

MediaWATCH: Tourism Dip Tipped, Lower Fares
Latest The flu scare is expected to push tourism visits lower so airlines are offering specials; Australians told to clean up their act; Thai economy on the slide; Thaksin collect passports.
MediaWATCH: Tourism Dip Tipped, Lower Fares

MediaWATCH: More Aussies Find Trouble
Latest Australia's media is credited with helping to free a woman charged over a Patong bar mat, but more Aussies face trouble abroad; Phi Phi deaths wait and see suggestion.
MediaWATCH: More Aussies Find Trouble


Comments have been disabled for this article.


I expect that one of largest tourist destinations of world understands different type of cultures and people.

Phuket is still just one destination on BIG list. This kind of happenings are not good for anyone.

Hopefully also authorities are understanding this.

Shouting, rude talking tourist is not big deal, if you do'nt want to make it big deal.

Posted by Anonymous on May 22, 2009 18:51


personally i find thailand very hospitable and tourist-friendly.

try stealing in singapore and call it a joke.

Posted by Anonymous on June 4, 2009 10:12

Sunday June 23, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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