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Michelle Smith's stabbing is reenacted outside the Katathani today

Phuket Mafia's Days Are Numbered, Says Thai Police Chief

Saturday, June 23, 2012
PHUKET: An arrest is imminent in the killing of Phuket tourist Michelle Smith as police offered a 300,000 baht reward and Thailand's Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, promised to end ''mafia'' rip-offs on the holiday island.

The fatal knifing of Mrs Smith, an Australian travel agent, has brought to a head mounting concerns about entrenched corruption, lack of appropriate action and flawed law enforcement on Phuket.

Mrs Smith was visiting Phuket with other travel agents from Perth on a familiarisation trip to encourage more tourism when she was killed by two men who attempted to snatch her bag outside the Katathani Beach Resort on Wednesday night.

Her death today brought Thailand's Deputy Police Chief Lieutenant General Pansiri Prapawat to Phuket to head the investigation. He told about 100 top officers from Phuket and nearby provinces:

''I have met with Prime Minister Yingluck and Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung. The Prime Minister said her policy was to care properly for Thailand's tourists because of the importance of the industry.''

The PM said police had to ensure no violence or mischief was committed, listing health issues, rip-offs and crime.

''Illegal taxis, jet-ski rip-offs, motorcycle renters with no insurance, mini-vans driving too fast, lax diving industry standards, tu-tuk drivers beating up tourists . . . all these regular complaints are to be dealt with now.''

This year so far, he said, there were 320 complaints about thefts on Thailand's buses, especially between Bangkok and Surat Thani in southern Thailand.

He said he spoke in detail for 40 minutes today with Australian honorary consul Larry Cunningham, who listed the problems and urged action directly from Bangkok immediately.

Phuket's honorary consuls have been complaining about Phuket's problems in regular three-monthly meetings for two years. Embassies and ambassadors in Bangkok, have taken up the call for Phuket to be reformed - and Michelle Smith's murder appears to have been the spur for action by the national government.

It will probably force a change in approach by one official who, when a tourist was struck by a speedboat propeller recently, dismissed the incident as ''natural'' and did nothing about it.

Michelle Smith's killers meanwhile are being pursued with unprecedented vigor. The 300,000 baht rewards consists of 100,000 each from the Katathani, Region 8 Police and the Phuket Police Commander.

Tourists from Australia delivered more money to Thailand than any other group, the lieutenant general said - 55120.84 million baht last year.

''We intend to make Phuket and Thailand places where tourists can be sure they will not be ripped off or feel threatened,'' the lieutenant general said.

Comments

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All talk and no action again? Or will we see a crackdown for a couple of days to try to impress the foreign press?

Posted by larry on June 23, 2012 13:54

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"and Michelle Smith's murder appears to have been the spur for action by the national government."

It should never have allowed to deteriorate to this level and now there is a REAL threat of losing the tourism from Australia the authorities are 'talking' about doing something.

Again, I wonder if the 9 other members will go back and still promote tourism in Thailand - if it was a colleague of mine I would do everything in my power to prevent tourism until real action, not empty words, has been achieved.

Posted by Graham on June 23, 2012 14:16

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Too bad that it took an event so egregious to get their attention. I trust that they mean it, that they'll man the police to do the job ongoing and that it's not just political noise.

Posted by ssresident on June 23, 2012 14:21

Editor Comment:

For once, it doesn't sound like noise.

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I really wish the Thai police chief good luck in removing the mafia from Phuket, let's judge in some 6 months time how it went,,,,however the whole system in Thailand would have to be re invented as it functions exactly as described in this well written piece from the Bangkok Post : http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/298380/the-godfather-tradition-lives-on

Posted by Bjarne on June 23, 2012 14:49

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"Phuket Mafia's Days Are Numbered"
That's true.
So far, it is a countless number.
All too interconnected.

Posted by ??? on June 23, 2012 16:11

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Ja ja ja. Empty words again from the " Authorities". Nothing will happen, but when the tourists dont come, well bliss for us who live here and tough sh-- for the locals. I am sick and tiered of hearing the locals say," We cant do anything!" What happened to the power of the vote? Is everyone here too busy licking the butts of the rich to actually do anything when their business fails??? Then they will all cry that they could not do anything.
My heart pumps custard for the weaklings, I am only a guest and as such, can leave in a flash. Poor phukey poor phukey.

Posted by DunB on June 23, 2012 16:13

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If Phuket is really cleaned up it will be a win win situation for ALL.
It has to come from the top - come on Yingluck, prove all the doubters wrong, make the "Miracle Thailand" ad real.

Posted by G Horne on June 23, 2012 16:55

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Mafia's days are numbered. Does that mean they will move the police away from Phuket?

Posted by Maneken pis on June 23, 2012 20:09

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(moderated)

Posted by Coralie on June 23, 2012 20:43

Editor Comment:

Your post is offensive in two cultures, Coralie. When you talk to people in person, how do they react to your insulting, objectionable manner?

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I would think they will need to bring the army in from Bangkok, the mafia vastly outnumber the police. Take the jet skis and illegal taxis off the street and beach immediately - they are not difficult to find. Happy days!

Posted by Hopeful on June 23, 2012 21:51

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I have been coming to Phuket for about 12 years now and I am afraid the Tuk Tuk's are a blight on the tourists. Too many Tuk Tuk's, too aggressive and pushy, and now the charges a "rip off". 200 bht to go just the length of Patong is daylight robbery. With the baht so strong against other currencies, Phuket is starting to get expensive and the tourists will, eventually, vote with their feet.

Posted by Matey on June 23, 2012 22:39

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Reenactment with everyone being back in OZ ??? Wow, how is it done without witnesses ?

Posted by Andy on June 23, 2012 23:45

Editor Comment:

Probably based on the security camera footage, Andy, and the statement of one victim.

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Reenactment with everyone being back in OZ ??? Wow, how is it done without witnesses ?


Editor Comment:
Probably based on the security camera footage, Andy, and the statement of one victim.


Sombut Atiset, who runs the popular five-star Katathani Beach Resort[...]
''We must catch these men. I am prepared to pay for witnesses to fly back from Australia to Phuket if it will help to convict these evil killers,'' he said.

Posted by ??? on June 24, 2012 07:18

Editor Comment:

Flying someone back from Australia for a reenactment would be laughable, ??? There are no inconsistencies, except for those in your thought patterns.

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Try to see the bigger picture, Ed.
Not for this time, but there will be another one. As soon they have the killer and his driver.
The witness is needed, in Thailand, at least in the court!
Did they check the two cam's, they got them during and after the crime, in the time before?
They had to go both times with the face IN the cam, to get, where they started
Let's hope, they catch these guys. Probably they will, 300.000 Baht is a load of money for some. And if friends/neighbors of these guys have seen them in the described clothes on a/there blue Honda dream, that evening,...! Even if they will have to share with the investigating officers, still enough money, to speak up!

Posted by ??? on June 24, 2012 09:57

Editor Comment:

Nonsense, ???. The guys are likely to confess, meaning no distant witnesses will be required. No need for extra trauma just because you think it's a good idea.

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Perhaps Prime Minister Yingluck, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm, and Lieutenant General Prapawat should consider what I've never heard mentioned from anyone in authority here before.

1) Open the gov't coffers and appropriate whatever it takes to increase the salary levels of policemen to a respectable (highly desirable even) level. (i.e. make the job well-paying enough as to attract and recruit as many men and women as possible.)

2) Establish a rigid and rigorous training system and program for these recruits to pass through, to ensure only the best of the best pass that course to attain such jobs.

Only when there is a high number of highly trained and well-paid policemen on the job, who take pride in that job and are truly committed to upholding the rule of law, will we ever see the mindset of the criminal types change here.

Only the fear of penalty and punishment will deter these folks from their criminal ways. There is no such fear now. Just ask any of your Thai friends how they feel about the police.

Posted by Relox on June 24, 2012 10:01

Editor Comment:

We would agree with that. The ''Singapore solution'' must happen eventually in Thailand, too. The hope is that some of the most corrupt local officials on Phuket will be transferred out immediately.

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If my math is correct, that means Aussies spent 1.83 billion dollars in Phuket last year?

This number is hard to comprehend in THB !

Dear Editor, if one wished to blow the whistle on corruption, how could one safely and effectively report it to the proper task force for investigation?

Posted by Jacob on June 24, 2012 20:00

Editor Comment:

Through an embassy or honorary consul.

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embassy or honorary consul... what if the corruption does not necesarily predominately affect one nation's group of tourists more than any others?

I thought there was a special task force about corruption in Phuket?

or media? or what about the corruption task force?

Posted by J on June 24, 2012 21:10

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I gave Patong a miss in february and went to Pattaya for one reason only the transport around is reasonable and works well enough. The scene is much the same though not nearly as heavy. I dont like being treated with contempt which is a speciality in Phuket. I shall miss my friends at O Top in Patong both farang and thai but who needs this. I have visited now 5 times and it gets worse each time.

Posted by peter on June 25, 2012 14:44


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