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Many Thais, including prosecutor Umaporn Siripong, have been keen to help

Rude Phuket Awakening for 'Impolite' Tourist Simon

Saturday, May 2, 2009
LEAVING Thailand, it seems, is never going to be easy for British tourist Simon Burrowes. When he tried to fly home back in January, he was arrested at Phuket airport.

Three months on, having paid a fine of 500 baht for being impolite to an Immigration official, all he has to do is extend his visa, and he is free to fly.

Doing that has so far has not proved to be easy.

The problem is that when his visa expired back on February 3, he was in jail for swearing and losing his temper four days earlier, at the airport.

As well as losing his temper, he also lost his non-refundable flight home, his job back in Britain, and his rented apartment.

Once Mr Burrowes was released on bail after three weeks in a crowded Phuket cell, he was keen to have his visa stamp updated in the passport that had been the source of so much pain and anguish.

The 44-year-old martial arts trainer's troubles in Thailand began when an official at the airport noted that he looked far younger in his passport photo, and that he was not wearing a shirt.

His holiday on Phuket went decidedly awry from there.

Out of jail but still facing charges, there was no prospect of a visa extension, officials told him, until the rights and wrongs of his case were resolved.

His eventual court appearance, on April 27, turned out to be quite straightforward, although he did demur for a while about pleading guilty.

Mr Burrowes didn't think he'd committed a crime.

But by pleading guilty in Phuket, he avoided a much longer stay in Thailand, a trial, and the prospect of more jail if the verdict went against him.

In the meantime, though, there was an unanticipated complication.

His fine for overstaying and not obtaining an extension to his visa had risen to 20,000 baht. He would have to pay that additional penalty before being able to fly out.

Oriiginally, Simon Burrowes appeared to be a victim of bureaucracy. Impolite, yes. Briefly angry, yes.

But now his burdens seemed way out of balance with the penalty incurred after he lost his temper.

Thais as well as expats saw the Kafkaesque nature of his tribulations and wanted to help.

On Friday, Bundit Sujjapongse, Phuket's Special Public Prosecutor, called Immigration officials and sought an exemption from the 20,000 baht fee.

Khun Bundit made the point that the circumstances were exceptional and deserved exceptional treatment.

Then came a real surprise: Prosecutor Umaporn Siripong provided Mr Burrowes with the 20,000 baht.

The money had come via an acquaintance, the mother of a friend, a Thai woman that Mr Burrowes knew back in Britain.

Despite the circumstances of the Burrowes case, helping others, especially those one knows who may be in trouble, is deeply ingrained in Thai culture.

''I feel terrible,'' Mr Burrowes told Phuketwan. yesterday. ''I am grateful for the money but I wish it wasn't necessary.''

Mr Burrowes spent half of Friday moving between the Office of the Phuket State Attorney and the Provincial Criminal Court.

Khun Bundit talked to Immigration at Phuket airport. Eventually, it was agreed that the 20,000 baht overstay fine will be overlooked.

But on the day Mr Burrowes eventually flies out, whenever that might be, he will have to make a trek from one end of the island to the other, then back again, to deal with the paperwork.

If he does not get everything organised with extreme precision, he could find himself back in jail.

On the day he flies out, he will first have to proceed to the casebook police investigator, based at Tatchatthai, north of the airport, to obtain a detailed official synopsis of the circumstances of his visa history.

After that, he will make the 45 kilometre trip back to Phuket City to the provincial capital's Immigration office where his visa can be extended with a stamp in his passport.

From there, it's back about 40 kilometres to Phuket Airport with the correct visa stamp, in that same old problematic passport.

He will be presenting it to Immigration in the airport departures section all over again.

To minimise the chances of a misunderstanding, Mr Burrowes will probably take along a translator. If all goes well, the 20,000 baht will be returned.

Mr Burrowes is now considering when to make another attempt to end his holiday in Thailand.

Special Prosecutor Khun Bundit says he is keen to help any expat facing difficulties with the law on Phuket. His telephone numbers are 076 213694 and 081 9651327.

Briton Fined 500 Baht for Being Impolite
Latest A British man whose case was widely noted when he was jailed after an encounter at Phuket Airport Immigration has been fined 500 baht in a Phuket court.
Briton Fined 500 Baht for Being Impolite

Jailed Tourist Blames 'Embassy Passport Error'
Latest Two British newspapers have published Simon Burrowes' version of the Thai Immigration encounter that left him in jail for three weeks. He faces prison for allegedly swearing at officials.
Jailed Tourist Blames 'Embassy Passport Error'

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?
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?
Arguing with Phuket Immigration: Is It Safe?

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'

Thai Visa Bar Codes in Passports 'Coming Soon'
Visa Change Coming Immigration officials say bar code stickers will be added later in 2009 to passports of people arriving in Thailand so officials can know more about visitors' movements.
Thai Visa Bar Codes in Passports 'Coming Soon'

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Do You suppose he will be more well behaved in the future???

Posted by Frank in Rawai on May 2, 2009 07:59

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The lyrics of "Hotel California" come to mind..."You can check out any time you like, but you can NEVER leave."

Hope the man gets out in one piece, with some semblance of sanity intact.

Posted by LC on May 2, 2009 08:38

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So pleased to finally see the passport in question. Certainly does look unusual, doesn't it?

Great job, Phuketwan, in keeping up with all of this.

Kafka-esque indeed. Very pleased to see some good people like K. Bundit and K. Umaporn come out to help.

Sure, hope Mr. Burrowes gets home ok after this ordeal.

Posted by D on May 2, 2009 12:41

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@Frank in Rawai: A quote from the bible comes to mind, ''he who is without sin should stick a stone up his a**e. Good result, let's hope Simon gets home soon and manages to get his life back in order after a punishment 1000 times too harsh for the supposed crime.

Posted by John Smithe on May 3, 2009 13:04

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Mr Visakay in Rawai, can you do nothing but snipe at people? ! Heaven forbid we begin making snide comments about you and let's leave Mr Burrowes be.

Posted by Stella Coombes on May 3, 2009 21:09

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What Fun!
Next time wear a shirt.

Posted by Frank in Rawai on May 4, 2009 10:37

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Well, I bet he's not going to lose his temper again in a hurry.

Shouting racism / human rights violations here cuts no ice as in the u.k. That was probably discovered at a rather early stage.

Losing your temper in Thailand gets you nowhere! Losing it with officials well read the above.

Still at least he's out and lets hope a little wiser. And fair play to the Thais for their actions as well.

Posted by johnnywadd on May 4, 2009 15:48

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For a country that doesn't respect human rights or the life of tourists/citizens, I'm definitely not going there any time soon. It seems that Thai officials can arbitarily hold a person ransom while slapping dis-proportional penalty and jail terms over a case where a lot of people would argue that it is not even a crime. What appears is Ms. Burrows was being unjustly discriminated and harrassed. If Thailand wants tourists from developed countries to go there and spend their hard-earned money, they'd better learn to respect people. Regardless of how the Thai officials try to paint the case of Mr. Burrows or hide the truth of mysterious deaths of the Phi Phi tourists, the world has eyes to see. Tourists have the choice to go where they feel safe and if Thailand keeps this up, they'll be crossed out from the map.

Posted by max on May 10, 2009 22:44


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