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German Ambassador Dr Hanns H. Schumacher: ''We have the ball rolling''

Phuket Police Chief: 'I Will Pursue Errant Officers'

Monday, August 23, 2010
Summit Photo Album Above

PHUKET'S Chief of Police, Major General Pekad Tantipong, has undertaken to pursue any police accused of demanding money for the return of tourists' passports. Only a few exceptional circumstances require expats to surrender passports to police.

Australia's honorary consul for Phuket, Larry Cunningham, today called for action against impolite tuk-tuk and taxi drivers who were causing a nuisance to tourists at Surin, and for a female police officer to assist with Phuket cases involving attacks on female tourists.

He also said there had been ''many instances'' where police on Phuket had demanded money for the return of passports, often in trivial cases.

The majority of sex attacks on Phuket are not being reported to police, while many are not being reported to anybody, he said. He spoke of ''one very brave Australian woman'' and her family who pursued and achieved justice in a case of rape, even though it probably cost the family $A50,000.

He said some Australians accused of crimes on Phuket ''we believe were innocent, and only pleaded guilty to be able to leave Phuket.'' He said at least one Australian on the list of expats arrested by police had had the case against him dropped.

Major General Pekad said there was a misunderstanding that triggered a blockade by taxi and tuk-tuk drivers in Surin about a year ago. ''Those who were responsible for the road block were charged and sentenced,'' he added.

He said he would keep an eye on the situation. Thuggish behavior would not be tolerated.

Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob said that there were a total of 2000-plus police officers on Phuket, including Immigration and Tourist Police, and any information about the few bad officers among them should be passed to Major General Pekad.

The outlook for solving some of Phuket's most entrenched problems involving tourists and expats seemed to participants to be far more positive after today's ''mini-UN'' summit on the island.

Passports and confiscation of passports was perhaps the hottest topic during the high-profile session at Provincial Hall in Phuket City.

Major General Pekad made the point that police did not normally notify honorary consuls if expats were involved in cases as witnesses or victims, but should do so if a person was held for 24 hours or more and charged.

He said he would remind Phuket police officers of their obligations. Only in the most serious cases involving violence or drugs was a passport required to be confiscated.

Senior Foreign Ministry personnel played a major part at today's gathering, joining Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob and German Ambassador Dr Hanns H. Schumacher on the rostrum. Their role is to continue in pursuing the issues raised today and at future summits.

Governor Wichai, who retires before October, was praised for his efforts in establishing the regular quarterly gatherings, and a date has been set in November for the first ''mini-UN'' under his successor.

Drugs, drink and violence appeared to be the cause of most arrests involving expat tourists, with the killing by American Ronald Fanelli and the present hunt for suspected British murderer Lee Aldhouse highlighted in the screen presentation.

Governor Wichai said that crime levels among tourists and expats were not exceptional when compared to the Thai population.

Among the most important pieces of news revealed today, the Governor said a letter of intent had been received from a Chinese developer who planned to build a light rail from Phuket Airport to Phuket City.

He said the 5.8 billion Phuket airport extension and a 2.7 billion baht conference centre for the north of the island were also proceeding.

His plan to compel the island's taxis to operate using meters and natural gas to reduce fares was expected to begin ''very very soon.''

German Ambassador Dr Schumacher did not go into details today, but he did say: ''Passports are being confiscated. Kindly ask the police to cease this practice.'' Honorary consuls are expecting to meet with Major General Pekad to deal specifically with Phuket police passport confiscations.

After the summit, Dr Schumacher said: "I do have the impression that we have the ball rolling. The Governor has promised to institutionalise the meetings, so we have a permanent exchange of communication.

''He has on several occasions called upon the honorary consuls and the embassies to report criticism or report incidents to the authorities.

''The German Embassy will take this invitation seriously and I hope my colleagues will not only raise criticism in general, but in future when we have a concrete problem to report, we will tell this to the authorities.

''This includes names and venues. I have the impression that the situation has definitely improved.''

He said the Foreign Affairs Ministry had ''grasped the international importance'' of the issues and taken a '''creative initiative'' to open up a separate channel of communication when there are problems.

''Regarding corruption, you cannot focus on Phuket only,'' he said. ''It is in the rest of the world, too. The problem is known.

''The impression I take from this morning's seminar and this meeting is that we have an opportunity now to raise these issues publicly as well as confidentially.

''That is the first step to fight corruption. That is the step we have taken today.''

Earlier this year, Governor Wichai advised tourists or expat residents with specific issues to inform their honorary consuls or embassies, or notify his office at Provincial Hall.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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"The Phuket can of worms" has been opened!

Posted by BOM on August 24, 2010 03:29

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We never hear the results of the cases reported here, like JJ and the guy who killed the Man outside the 7-11, I know the Thai legal system is slow but surely in the case of JJ something should have happened by now

Posted by Michael on August 24, 2010 10:15

Editor Comment:

It may be that nothing will happen. The JJ case remains highly contentious and the debate has not moved from the central question of whether the television footage was real or playacting.

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So what are the few exceptional circumstances that require surrender of your passport to the police?

Posted by Bobby Brown on August 24, 2010 11:31

Editor Comment:

Crimes involving violence, and crimes involving drugs.

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I certainly applaud the efforts of the German Ambassador Dr Schumacher and the Govenor. However, we all know that corruption starts at the bottom and goes right to the top.

There is one area we could look at regarding officials and that is 'Financial Disclosure'. Simply check bank accounts and other financial records, if you have nothing to hide, it won't be a problem. Look at housing and vehicle ownership - ask the question "How can you afford this?".

Remember, if you have nothing to hide, there is no problem.

Posted by Graham on August 24, 2010 12:59

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For a start the police chief could come down to Rawai and close all the bars at 2 am instead of 5am. bla bla bla as usual i would think it is all talk and no action

Posted by Lord Jim on August 24, 2010 14:58

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It would be informative for foreigners to know what "exceptional circumstances require expats to surrender passports to police"? Knowing your rights can go a long way in deterring this common practice of police extorting foreigners to hand over passports in times of trouble then demanding payment to get back what they had no right to detain in the first place. A practice which is all too common here in Phuket.

Posted by The Quan on August 24, 2010 16:21

Editor Comment:

A charge of murder or some other violent crime is justification for having to surrender your passport, along with virtually every charge involving drugs, no matter how insignificant the matter may be deemed in some Western countries.

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and following with what Lord Jim said...the police chief can also shut down that loud and ongoing music opposite Junkceylon...which goes on at incredible decibel levels till 3 am..breaking noise laws in residential areas as well as playing into the wee hours....

Posted by sky on August 24, 2010 18:16

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Editor,
Can we as your readership consider your last comment that many/most western societies don't consider murder or drug possession a significant crime.
We have crime in all of our respective countries. It's the MASS corruption that exists in the xxxxxxxxxxxxxx that the vast majorty of us are not accustomed to.
(moderated)
Your sarcasim is amazing.

Posted by Happy Farang on August 24, 2010 22:11

Editor Comment:

That's not what I said, Happy Farang. Your assumption in using the word ''we'' that you speak for all others is the same as your assumption that a particular group of people are corrupt: wrong both in principle and in fact.

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Editor,
You really seem to have a disdain for any comments from your readership that imply anything to do with corruption. Corruption in the xxxxxx and xxxxxx(self moderated) is widespread and longstanding in your otherwise fine community.
Your self sensoring when it comes to this subject is very obvious.
Your comment regarding my use of we(plural) stems from your use of "some" (plural) in your statement. Can you name me just one western country that would consider murder or drug use/possession an insignificant crime?

Posted by Happy farang on August 25, 2010 11:05

Editor Comment:

That's not what I said. You have misread my comment. And it's not ''your'' community. I won't accept generalisations that do not have some evidence to support them, whether the topic is corruption or anything else. If you have researched the evidence to support your comment, fine. Let us all know. There's also the issue of people using nom de plumes to tarnish the reputation of others. We are reluctant to let criticism pass without real names, too.


Friday August 23, 2019
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