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Phuket Jail,  built for 700,  now holds more than 1000 inmates

Briton 'Jailed on Phuket for Being Rude'

Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Phuketwan is Following Up This Report

A BRITISH publication claims a tourist is facing a two-year sentence in a ''hellish Thai prison'' on Phuket for ''being rude'' to an Immigration official.

The allegations highlight cultural differences, the issue of overcrowding and security in Phuket Jail, and a rising incidence of crime on the island.

An Immigration official confirmed the man's arrest and said the man swore at an official, criticised Thailand, and had an inappropriate photograph in his passport.

''Phuket doesn't need bad tourists like this,'' the Director General of Immigration at the Phuket International Airport, Suksopon Maneeson, told Phuketwan today.

The incident first emerged in a report carried by the Voice online.

According to the article by Maxine Myers, Voice reader Simon Burrowes was ending a holiday with a friend when Thai authorities at Phuket airport detained him on January 31, preventing him from returning to Britain.

The report continues: ''Immigration officials suspected Burrowes' passport was a forgery. Speaking to The Voice via phone from Thailand, Burrowes said: ''A woman at immigration was looking at my passport and then handed it to the man behind her.

''I was ushered to sit down whilst he took out a magnifying glass and proceeded to check my passport for half an hour,'' he explained.

''He was told that he was not getting on the plane and was taken to a detention centre, whilst his friend Matthew was able to fly back to the UK.''

The report alleges that for three weeks, the 44-year old was ''held with 126 men in a cramped prison cell.''

According to the Voice: ''He contacted the British Consulate, who confirmed his passport was genuine. However, the disgruntled Brit claims that the Consulate should have done more, saying that they took long to react to his case.''

The Voice says Burrowes was later charged with ''rude and aggressive behaviour'' towards an immigration officer, a claim he denies, and released on bail to the equivalent of 2000 pounds.

''He must remain in Thailand until his trial begins on April 26, and his lawyer has warned he could face a two-year jail sentence,'' the Voice reports.

The Director General of Immigration at the Phuket International Airport, Suksopon Maneeson, said he had a voice tape recording the incident.

The man's passport carried a photograph in which he was not wearing clothes, which led the official to wonder whether it was a genuine passport, Khun Suksopon said.

He also looked younger in the photograph.

''When compared with other passports, even from Cambodia or Laos, they have standards,'' Khun Suksopon said. ''Britain is a developed country.''

When the official started to ask questions, Burrowes became angry, Khun Suksopon said, and snatched back his passport. Burrowes then said ''F*** You'' and criticised Thailand in an offensive way, Khun Suksopon added.

''If you go to England and behave the way this man did, what would happen?'' Khun Suksopon asked.

''I love Thailand. I do not want people coming here and looking down on Thailand or speaking badly about Thailand and to Thai people.''

British Honorary Consulate Martin Carpenter told Phuketwan: ''At the end of the day, we've done everything we can possibly do for him.

''The last time I spoke to Mr Burrowes, he said: 'Thank you for everything you have done for me.'''

The General Director of Phuket Jail, Paisal Suwanraksa, confirmed that Mr Burrowes had been held at the jail.

He said: ''Phuket Jail has adequate room for 700 people but right now, we have more than 1000 inmates. It is true that conditions are not ideal.''

Last week, a senior official from Bangkok visited the jail and told Khun Paisal he was concerned about the pressure on existing facilities.

Some prisoners may have to be transferred to other jails in Songkla or Nakornsritammarat.

At present, 46 percent of the prisoners on Phuket are in jail for drug-related offences.

Khun Paisan said a new jail would cost 400 million baht, but there is no evidence that underfunded Phuket has that kind of money to spend.

He said the Governor, Dr Preecha Ruangjan, had visited the jail and was concerned about conditions there.

Jail officers turned down a formal request from Phuketwan today to tour the jail to see what conditions are like. We were told there were concerns, with so many prisoners in the jail, for our safety.

Phuketwan is renewing a request for access via the Justice Department in Bangkok.

Five prisoners still being held in the jail are British, jail officials told Phuketwan. About 20 inmates are from Western countries.

Phuketwan is checking the other allegations and will be updating this report as soon as our reporters have more details.

The Voice report in full is at:

Phuketwan's News File

Lessons from One Phuket Tourist's Nightmare
Latest Analysis Phuket's Burrowes affair probably alarms many people. Tourists can sympathise with a man who wants to catch a flight and is wrongly accused of carrying a faked passport.
Lessons from One Phuket Tourist's Nightmare

Arguing with Phuket Immigration: Is It Safe?
Questions are being asked by tourists about the case of a man who was arrested and jailed following an argument with Immigration officials at Phuket Airport. Is it too high a price to pay?
Arguing with Phuket Immigration: Is It Safe?


Comments have been disabled for this article.


" Underfunded"? A new health centre facility was built over a year ago about 700 meters from the detention release facility in Manik, near Cherng Telay. Replete with AC , the building remains unused and landscaping was allowed to die during the past 2 months of no rain. New grass has been recently laid down and water sprinklers on in full force the last week .

Posted by Christy Sweet on March 3, 2009 10:41


If that's the law then the guy should know better, but two years in jail is worse than the guy who killed a person with his BMW. The immigration man said he loves Thailand, if he does, then please do something about all the corruption here.

Posted by patklang on March 3, 2009 12:25


Immigration in any country is a serious business, and just maybe this Brit was scared. I find it hard to believe there was an inappropriate picture in a passport, there are such strict laws on passports these days you can't even wear a hat!. To stick this guy into a prison is unforgivable.

Posted by eddie on March 3, 2009 13:52


i have been in prison in germany for 6 month because i called a police officer a bum! so what! he is a visitor in this country and the only thing he has to do is shut up and do what they tell him! if he really said f*** you i hope he goes to jail, because i see too many people in thailand that forget that this isn't their country and they have to behave!

Posted by markus on March 3, 2009 18:37


I don't think anyone, especially a visitor, should be put in jail for that length of time for something as ludicrous as a display of verbal bad attitude upon exiting the country. There was no physical contact, and no verbal or physical gestures or threats of harm made upon the officer.

Posted by Anonymous on March 4, 2009 06:32


Some pre-RFID chipped UK passports are still in circulation. Does anyone know if this unfortunate chap was carrying one?

Posted by zigsterpoop on March 4, 2009 07:55


Having stood in the Immigration queue for about the same time as the flight from Singapore, and then have a group of Russians push to the front of the queue, I can understand tempers being a bit frayed.

Posted by Terry - Perth on March 4, 2009 08:29


At first I thought perhaps the officer was "making a case" by claiming an inappropriate photo was in the passport. But a photo would be tangible evidence to submit in court. So, now I'm not so sure. But 2 years - hmmm. Any question who the boss is now?
NOTE TO SELF - Be calm, be cool, stay out of jail.

Posted by Captn Sanook on March 4, 2009 09:21


''If you go to England and behave the way this man did, what would happen?'' Khun Suksopon asked.


Posted by Becca on March 4, 2009 12:19


Is the F word illegal?

Posted by VFaye on March 4, 2009 13:12


@Becca: Right on.

Once again, we see the arbitrariness in the system. Now, being a jerk is criminal behavior?

It's not like it was even inbound immigration, in which case the immigration official would justifiably have more freedom to make a subjective, on-the-spot call. This traveler was outbound. Let him leave, note him as an undesirable, and deny him next time.
But jail him?

Posted by PD on March 4, 2009 13:30


If this guy was treated with the same respect as I see other Thais treating people of African extraction around Thailand, then I don't blame the guy one bit.

Posted by Joe on March 4, 2009 21:28


What this article failed to mention is that Mr Burrowes only reacted this way after being told his passport was a fake (it wasn't) and was himself treated quite rudely by immigration staff. They refused to explain why they had disappeared with his passport, refused to explain if he would be catching his flight, denied him water, and mocked him. I think most people would get a little agitated in that situation. Although he used a regrettable choice of words, surely he does not deserve 2 years in an already overcrowded prison???

Posted by LKH on March 5, 2009 01:51


Becca, not quite true. A friend's daughter told a British Immigration official he was " Nuts " was interrogated for eight hours and deported straight back to South Africa. The incidence of South Africans being deported from Britain is very high and as of 1 March 09, South Africans now all need visas to enter Britain.
SO, be polite at all times with officials, any official OK !

Posted by Graham on March 5, 2009 09:29


Is it possible to have a British passport with inappropriate clothing, or lack of clothing in the photo ???
Editor: Apparently it is possible to have a valid British passport with a shirtless photo, although embassy officials are reluctant to confirm this outright.

Posted by elizabeth on March 5, 2009 17:11


GREAT!!!!!! - That will teach him to behave and show some respect for people trying to do their job. I only wish we had this type of action here in Australia.

Posted by Ian on March 5, 2009 20:05


I think people are missing the point here:
He was detained for not having legitimate papers, they later found that this wasn't the case....hmmm story should've ended here with an apology and a flight home, but no. Rather than taking responsibility for false imprisonment Thai Officials then created this ridiculous charge of using 'offensive language.'
Come on people lets be serious, they had nothing to convict him on the first time and are now making things up. Blind freddy can see this is stupid.
And I'm sorry, but if you had been interrogated (for hours!), had asked to see a senior official but was ignored, asked for water but denied it, I think anyone would've reacted negatively.

Posted by Caroline Fakhouri on March 7, 2009 04:09


Graham - Becca was right, the friend's daughter got away with being rude. The powers of Immigration is to stop undesirables entering the country. If they're on the way out, the best way to exercise their power is to black-mark the name for future trips, then we'd all be saying sum-num-na to him. You don't throw them in jail, you get rid of them. When will these Immos realise they are representing their country and the tourist is the customer, which is exactly how a tourist is treated in the UK?

Posted by Glyn on March 8, 2009 12:05


Glyn I quite agree. Here we should be doing everything in our power, both expat and Thai, to encourage folks to come and have a holiday here, not scaring the living wits out of them. We face a bad coming year anyway, without this type of stuff going on. Be well.

Posted by Graham on March 8, 2009 16:45


The punishment in no way fits the crime (if Thai law decides that one has indeed been committed) but really, how stupid is this guy?

A shirtless photo in a passport from a country where (as the Thai authorities well know) there is a long list of specifications as to what constitutes an acceptable passport photo is bound to raise questions.

Point 1: It was Burrowes' responsibility to make sure he had an appropriate shot in passport. Ever hear of anyone else who had a shirtless photo in their passport?

Point Two: In Thailand, swearing is a no-no to any official. Snatching your passport from government officials and then telling them to 'f___ off' is crass stupidity of the highest order.

Point 3: In any country in the world, the last thing you do is get bolshie with Immigration. It's their country, their rules. Smile, remain calm and be polite.

You adapt to the customs and manners of the country you're in, you don't expect them to adapt to yours. End of story.

Posted by Ted on March 9, 2009 05:03


Tip: Never tell people to F' off in Thailand. You do so at your peril.

Posted by Ken on March 10, 2009 00:16


Simon is one of the most fun loving guys I have had the pleasure in knowing since I was a teenager ( 40's now).I wish him well and a quick and safe return.

Posted by Pee Bee on March 10, 2009 07:13


A UK Passport asks that the holder in the name of Her Majesty that the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance...
Now whilst there has been a decided deterioration in the FCO's care for its citizens, this case demands action.

1. The alleged inappropriate photo if credible, is the responsibility of the Passport Office.
2. Phuket's British Honorary Consulate Martin Carpenter should be embarrassed for leaving a citizen in such an absurd legal limbo, when this should have been resolved within a matter of hours, not days - let alone weeks.

Swearing cannot be condoned, but an innocent tourist with a legal passport unnecessarily detained and missing his flight home, because some jumped up official who decided he had found a false passport and giving the holder the third degree., would test the most patient of travellers.

Posted by RhodieBKK on March 10, 2009 11:36


Being a frequent traveller to Thailand I have seen a number of occasions where tourists think they can treat Police and the like with the same contempt that that they would have at home. Believe me, don't!!!! I have seen guns drawn by the police for what would be considered a minor matter at home, in Britain at least.
Thailand is one of the most friendly of countries to visit, but a word of advice, although Thai society is very polite they expect the same in return but don't mix it with the officials as they do not take kindly to being insulted in any way.
Stay calm and be polite is the only way with the Thai authorities!

Posted by Douglas Davies on March 12, 2009 14:44


I'm left wondering if all those people who consider the Thai immigration authorities to be 'jumped up' or 'officious' would have made the same comments had Burrowes been passing through US immigration.

Say Burrowes was going through Newark airport and the US immigrations had questions about his passport. Burrowes starts blathering.

He'd be inside a cell, before he could bluster and bellow another word. He'd also be charged with threatening behaviour. You just don't pull that kind of stunt with US officials, no matter how tired or emotional you are, and everyone knows it.

Posted by Ted on March 19, 2009 01:01


Hey whoever let him into the country must have thought his passport was ok, so why could he not leave? There may be more than just a passport issue here.

Posted by Graham on March 19, 2009 08:13


its nothing but all his time..

thailand wants him to be here and learn more about thai culture ..may be now it hurts after few year he will sure miss this country..

Posted by Guddu on April 11, 2009 16:24

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