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The crowded scene at Phuket airport on a Saturday

Jailed Tourist Blames 'Embassy Passport Error'

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Burrowes Case Latest

THE SIMON Burrowes affair is now being dissected in the British press, with the man at its centre giving his own account.

While officials in Thailand are anxious to keep the case in perspective, many expats have expressed sympathy for a man who appears to be a victim of frustration and blunders.

According to the latest report in the Guardian newspaper, British Foreign Office diplomats mistakenly told Phuket immigration officials that the 44-year-old martial arts practitioner was travelling on a false passport.

Mr Burrowes also said that officials from the British embassy in Bangkok acknowledged their error only after he had spent days in a cramped cell with 126 inmates.

''The 6ft 3ins Thai kick-boxing instructor admits he lost his temper as his flight left without him,'' says the report by Ian MacKinnon and Andrew Drummond in Bangkok.

''But he must wait until the end of next month to appear in court and could face up to two years in jail.''

A second report on the Evening Standard's This is London site is headed: 'I was thrown in Thai jail because of embassy error'

Thai police charged Mr Burrowes with travelling on false papers, and he was held in a crowded Phuket jail cell with 120 other prisoners for three weeks before being bailed.

''I was arrested on a Friday getting my flight to Britain,'' Mr Burrowes is quoted as saying.

''Thai immigration officials said they were suspicious of my passport. When they checked with the embassy an official told them my passport number did not exist.

''When I spoke to the embassy official he must have known I was British. I told them the passport was legal.

''He said it did not exist. I begged him to double check. But he refused because the embassy closed at Friday midday for their long weekend.

''They said they would prioritise the matter the following week, so I was sent to jail. But officials had all day in London to check me out. I cannot believe they could not have done it.''

Now, the report says, Burrowes ''is penniless in Thailand awaiting local justice.''

He admits that he lost his temper when his flight, for which he had a non-refundable ticket, took off without him.

While the passport charge has been dropped, Mr Burrowes still faces a severe penalty for allegedly swearing at Thai Immigration officials.

He told the Evening Standard: ''They kept me waiting an hour studying my passport with a magnifying glass. I told them I would miss my flight. They told me the flight could not leave without their permission. But it did.

''I was angry. I grabbed my passport and walked out of the immigration area, saying, 'I am a British citizen who has come to your country to spend my money. Don't treat me like a 'f**king idiot.'''

Thai officials claim the swearing was directed at them and have told Phuketwan that they have an audio tape account of the incident.

A spokesman for the British embassy in Bangkok is quoted by the Guardian as saying that no officials had at any time told anyone involved that the passport was not valid.

Phuket officials were notified of its legitimacy the following Tuesday. Mr Burrowes' passport is reported to be nine years old.

The case is expected to reach court in Phuket sometime after April 27.

Phuketwan Visa Latest


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Phuketwan Burrowes Case 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.
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Arguing with Phuket Immigration: Is It Safe?
Latest 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?
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Briton 'Jailed on Phuket for Being Rude'
Latest A British man says he was detained on his way out of Phuket and held in jail for ''being rude'' to an Immigration official. Phuketwan will update as more facts emerge.
Briton 'Jailed on Phuket for Being Rude'

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