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Murdered Phuket Tourist Showed Bravery. Now It's Phuket's Turn

Murdered Phuket Tourist Showed Bravery. Now It's Phuket's Turn

Tuesday, June 26, 2012
PHUKET: Michelle Smith was a brave woman and like most brave women we know, she did not give up her bag when someone tried to snatch it from her.

After her brutal murder on Phuket, a relatively peaceful holiday island, it's easy for people in uniform to say to tourists and the women of Phuket: ''Let the thugs take your bags.''

The reality is that it's time Michelle Smith's courage in standing up to her killers was reflected in the attitude of the administrators of Phuket.

Where are the police, the council officers, the decision-makers who administer Phuket who are brave enough to stand up to the thugs and bullies who run the island?

Why have they caved in for years and years to the gangsters, the greedy mafia, the guys who want an easy living for nothing?

Michelle Smith, a brave woman, has paid with her life for their lack of courage.

If there had been a low-cost bus shuttle service between the Katathani Resort, where she was staying, and Kata beach, 1.4 kilometres away, Michelle Smith would be alive today.

We suspect that the 60-year-old mother of three and her friend, Tammee Lee, another Australian tour agent, would have preferred to save their tired legs and caught the shuttle.

But of course, there was no convenient low-cost shuttle alternative. Phuket's taxi and tuk-tuk mafia makes sure of that.

In every district across Phuket, there are tuk-tuk drivers and taxi drivers, legal and illegal, who believe the world owes them a well-paid living.

They believe that they have the right to charge extortionate fares from tourists, and to prevent anyone from setting up an alternative safe, low cost bus or shuttle service, anywhere on Phuket's west coast.

Michelle Smith died because she had to walk. There was no alternative, except for the ludicrously high-priced taxis. Mrs Smith, from what we now know, was not the kind of person to support the bullies and thugs.

When the leaders of Phuket's travel industry, the administrators, the police and the council officials meet on Wednesday to discuss Phuket's problems, we hope they remember Michelle Smith.

We hope they remember that she died bravely, making a choice between right and wrong.

The answer to Phuket's problems is to stand up to the thugs. All of them.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Spot on Mr Morison, spot on.

Posted by Hans Forssell on June 26, 2012 01:29


And this, since two years ago I started to read you, it's one of the most brave, honorable and touching news articles you wrote: keep going this direction. Bravo.

Posted by LBF on June 26, 2012 03:37


All it takes for evil men to triumph is for god men to do nothing.
Right on ED

Posted by Arthur on June 26, 2012 04:53


Just back from Phuket, dont catch a tuk tuk in Phuket as they are all stand over merchants and just rip off tourists. I RENT A SCOOTER FOR $7 Per day. Other solution is to catch the local bus for 25 baht from one end of Patong to the other or to Phuket town or Central Festival for shopping.
Phuket councils and Police do nothing about the taxi mafia.

Posted by Kimbo on June 26, 2012 05:12


excellent report ... the video is incredible it shows clearly how brave she was ... let it be the beginning of the change here, it's time the mafia in all areas of business in Phuket are wiped out .. we live in hope

Posted by chris on June 26, 2012 07:09


It's an odd thing Ed, how fast, like a wawing flag, you can change opinion! Just a year ago, despite of many contrary comments of yours, which you regularly snubbed, Phuket was "a paradise for tourists and families ". Had the Michelle Smith's murder woke up you?

Posted by Coralie on June 26, 2012 07:17

Editor Comment:

My opinion hasn't changed, Coralie. I see the world as it is, multi-hued and remarkable, not in black and white, like you. Phuket remains a fine place for a holiday, no more dangerous than most places that visitors call home. But it could use some improvements. Your interpretation of the world leaves me feeling nothing but sympathy.


Great comment. I am sure Australia's Ambassador and Honorary Consul will make this point when they meet with the Governor and Police Chief on Friday.

Posted by helen on June 26, 2012 07:26


So true, well said, we too rent a scooter as the cost of the Tuk Tuk;s would add an unreasonable amount to our hard earned holidays, but if their was an affordable alternative we would support it in a flash.

Posted by Romegs on June 26, 2012 07:35


Everything you say about the bad mafia etc is true, but I wonder if that lady's family and friends wouldn't rather she had let go of the bag? Bravery? I suspect not, just instinctive reaction, probably. If it helps to initiate change, good, but not worth losing a life over. Ah well, off to the airport tomorrow - 700bt down the drain for fare!

Posted by George Ack on June 26, 2012 07:40


She was a very brave woman, the killers couldn't even steal her bag such was her strength.

Posted by Sean on June 26, 2012 08:03


Thank you for this. I hope that others will follow your example, and I hope that the tide is turning.

Posted by fw on June 26, 2012 08:16


i am a regular visitor to bangkok for business and phuket for a short break. i feel safer in bkk than phk. i have been alarmed at the rise in anamosity in phk towards tourists in the last 3years, and having traveled to thailand twice a year since 1981 i have listened with intrest to all the promises to fixing the problems to no avail for a very long time. i aplaude your comments, maybe you need a job change and fix this mess.

Posted by anthony on June 26, 2012 08:23


I couldn't agree with you more on this one Editor. It is for all those reasons you mention that I haven't used a tuk-tuk on the island for over 8 years and prefer to walk from Kata/Karon to Patong, or if I have plenty of time, I catch the local buses (via Phuket Town). Please keep up the pressure on this one so it doesn't fizzle out to be just another talkfest by the powers that be.

Posted by Hugh on June 26, 2012 08:59


Absolutely spot on as said by Hans and others. Maybe Michelle's death won't be an obscene pointless waste of life. Maybe, but only if police, the council officers and the decision-makers who administer Phuket TAKE ACTION.

Posted by benvenuto on June 26, 2012 09:19


Another excellent article. Keep this up & you will have much support. I think the authorities are finally beginning to feel the pressure of public opinion. Sad that another life had to be lost to drive the point home. However, finally the message seems to have got through to Bangkok, so maybe we shall see some serious action.

@ Anthony: I thoroughly agree with your comment that animosity against tourists has grown visibly & significantly over the past 3 years. It seemed to start after the 'unsolved' Norwegian murder in October 2007 or 2008, I cannot recall exactly. The number of Scandinavian tourists (the renowned big spenders) dropped dramatically, with huge impact on local businesses. The authorities responded by encouraging Russian & Asian package tourists (who spend little), stating that tourist numbers were up & tourism in Phuket was healthy. 3 years down the road & it is clear that all is not healthy at all. Shops were empty, bars were empty, golf courses were empty, street stalls were selling little, ALL in high season. Now the backlash is large numbers of Thais short of money, with no hope of making any, & inevitably a percentage will turn to crime. I have often been asked "why do your countrymen not come any more & spend money?" It is not a tough question to answer honestly. Lack of response to past muggings & murders has played a significant & accumulative role.

Posted by Logic on June 26, 2012 15:13


Ed, tell your comment to Mrs. Michelle's husband. He will say to you the best feelings and the best opinion about Phuket and its uncontrolled Thai visitors!

Posted by Coralie on June 26, 2012 17:05

Editor Comment:

You've reached a new and despicable low, Coralie, with your last comment on this site.


I have been reading your online paper for some years now and have been to Phuket many times, more recently the last 2 years with my wife and 2 teenage daughters. I have always felt safe there, like most tourist do not pay the expensive tuk tuk or taxi fares and choose to stay in Patong. We dont stay out too late of an evening and like Michelle walk back to the hotel after dinner. This terrible crime is a major shock to all tourist that have travelled to Phuket, yes not something that happens all too often, thank god, but never the less all too damaging to Phukets reputation as a safe destination to visit. I like you Alan hope the officials remember Michelle who died bravely making the choice between right and wrong. What an incredible brave woman. The need to act is NOW no more talk. RIP Michelle
Jeff Victoria Australia.

Posted by Jeff Australia on June 26, 2012 17:06


ED, it seems youare losing the plot, in the last 3 or 4 weeks, you seem to have banned a few people..simply because they do not agree with you..myself, well you do seem to be a hypocrite at times and also, as an editor you fail, as a human, well I guess you just don't like to be seen as a fool...oh, you can "ban" me, but that only means I get a new email account, but soon a new web site could appear.., this could be for everyone to post their grievances concerning your attitude as well as their comments to your articles that you refuse to post

Posted by dbate on June 26, 2012 17:52

Editor Comment:

dbate, we want commenters who have something to add, not polemicists bent on pushing their warped perspectives. My attitude isn't going to change. All the personal insults in the world are meaningless, a waste of your time, my time, and other readers' time. Some people, dbate, can't do anything except insults. Find something to say that adds to our collective knowledge, or move on. Simple, eh?


ED, every day we see you insult others who post on here as well as bent on pushing your warped perspectives, I listened to you on hide the truth from the world...Phuket is a dangerous place,, yes, these thing happen all over the world, but you forget, Phuket is a very small island, but with a very large set of problems, think about it, if it was greater Sydney area would it be tollerated..NO, in fact, if it happened in all of Australia, it would NOT be tolerated (tuk tuk and taxi type scams, corrupt policing etc, you accuse other organisations of NOT informing tourist eg, dangerous ocean conditions, but you yourself DO NOT publish the truth about many other dangers/problems.

Posted by dbate on June 27, 2012 07:13

Editor Comment:

Phuket is a city of more than one million for part of the year, dbate. It has too many crimes, just like every other city. What it does have that could easily be reduced is an excessively high proportion of scaremongers, people who are frightened by anything they don't understand and aren't willing to learn about. People who expect the same kind of lifestyle here as in Sydney. People who will never be happy, anywhere, any time. People like you, dbate. Stop wasting my time.


Dear Ed.
Yesterday i wrote a lengthy comment(sent around this time). Firstly applauding you for the above piece. (you may recall my comment-sound of thousands of people clapping, congratulating you on the above piece).
Then i gave an example. One where my taxi driver had experienced violence towards him and another illustrating restrictions placed on a certain hotel and it's use of kayaks on the beach. Included in the mix was the empty promise by officials to remove jet skis from Phuket beaches. All of which tied into your very comments above concerning mafia and thuggish behaviour. Time for Bkk to act etc.
I closed with hoping too, that one day the dream of low cost shuttle transport would be realised!
I'm not a Thai basher or keyboard warrior but someone who has visted Phuket since 1995, enjoyed my at times lengthy visits and my long stays when i was working and based in Asia.
I've been a phuketwan admirer from the get go and via word of mouth have tuned many onto the site. Once again you should be congratulated for your efforts. Could you let me know via comments (@sunshine) or drop me a short email to explain why yesterday's comments by me were gagged/rejected. I was quite surprised considering some of the haters that attack the comments section at times. Yours sincerely-Best regards.

Posted by sunshine on June 27, 2012 11:46

Editor Comment:

This is the only comment you've ever posted here using this email.


ED..there you go again, rubbish those who don't agree with you..firstly, Phuket is NOT a city, it is an island, with less people than a large city, but with a much higher level of violence, corruption and scams, as for scaremongering, well no, we only speak the truth, something you try to ignore, there are many long term expats that know and speak the truth, why you try to protect NOT speak the truth is you business, but please do not redicule those who do....perhaps you are to sh#t scared to speak the truth, that I can understand.

Posted by dbate on June 27, 2012 13:07

Editor Comment:

dbate, we used to attract people to PW who show your lack of thought, but not for a while. Phuket is a pleasant place to live and holiday and not deserving of a calculated campaign of denigration. You and the other scaremongers have never been able to prove a single exaggerated lie is true. What we find really, really scary is your ignorance.


With a full scale police search now taking place in the rural area outside Darwin, which is where I live and work in the NT Police, for a man accused of decapitating another man. With a man convicted of murder for hire who got paid just $5000 to excecute someone. with another man burnt to daeth by a neighbour who poured petrol over him and set it alight. With an entertainment district that even police fear to walk down. I look at Phuket and wish I could live and work in such safety and amongst such wonderful people as the real residents of Phuket.
Please if you are really scared about living in Phuket I will swap anytime.

Posted by Arthur on June 28, 2012 16:01


We are in Phuket now from NZ, 9 days on way to Europe. Weather shocking - non stop rain. I know that's not Phukets fault. But the island feels less safe than last time we were here. Much more aggressive traders. I sit and worry myself sick when my wife pops out for a shop. It's not worth the worry. Phuket, you are fun and beautiful. But you are becoming too much to deal with. We feel like walking ATM machines. Lots of nice places in Asia now.

Posted by Dom on July 5, 2012 16:00


This article is spot on, as many commenters have stated, but your responses to comments made by "Coralie" and "dbate" are way off. The inconsistency in your writing is very odd.

Posted by Buster on July 19, 2012 12:14

Editor Comment:

There will always be a difference, Buster, because what's in the article is journalism and what's in the comments section is often the poorly-informed babble of instant, anonymous experts on everything. In the days when newspapers were real, before they became promotion sheets, only readers who identified themselves and who were able to mount a cogent, coherent train of thought graced the letters pages. These days, anyone who can type presents the first thing that comes into their head and hides behind a label. If you confuse journalism with babble, you're in big trouble.


Well said.

Posted by Scunner on July 24, 2012 00:43

Wednesday November 29, 2023
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