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Aussie Bar mats are said to be worth A$60 because they are Australian-made

Temper Tantrums Call for a Phuket Tourist Court

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Phuketwan Analysis/Opinion

SIMON BURROWES, the ''rude'' Briton, may have jetted off Phuket at the weekend but the island now has another case of cultural conflict between officialdom and a tourist.

The media in Australia today is devoting large amount of airtime and online space to the case of Melbourne mother-of-four Annice Smoel, 36.

According to reports (as detailed in today's MediaWATCH), she was arrested in Patong because of a petty bar prank that went wrong, has been in limbo for 17 days without her passport, and now faces a long jail term.

However, Phuketwan has been told that Ms Smoel ''went ballistic'' at the time of the incident, abusing officers all the way up to the local chief of police.

The connection of this incident to the Burrowes affair lies in the ''rude'' abuse of authorities.

''Impolite behavior'' is simply not acceptable in Thailand. Visitors need to be told that before they arrive.

While bad language and anger are tolerated these days in many Western countries, they are not condoned in Thailand and usually only compound the problem for any tourist in trouble.

The issue for the tourism industry on Phuket is to find a way to solve this problem.

Marketing campaigns designed to draw visitors back to the island and the delights of the Andaman region pale in the face of this kind of publicity.

Clearly the Burrowes case, which has been widely reported in Britain, and the Smoel case, which was the lead item on Australia's national radio service today, are catastrophic news for tourism.

This is not to say that the rights and wrongs have been clearly established in either case. Nor are they ever likely to be.

The more important point is that when a tourist loses his or her temper with a Thai official, real damage is done to tourism.

The cultural chasm between tourists who fail to understand they are in a different country, with different rules of behavior, and officials who never tolerate anger and insults, remains immense.

It makes sense to consider introducing a Tourist Court, where justice can be administered quickly, so tourists can be allowed to return to their own countries rapidly if they accept the court's ruling.

The Burrowes Case

Jet Me Out Of Here! Stayput Simon All Set to Fly
Airport Photo Album After an extra three months of ''holiday'' on Phuket, troubled British tourist Simon Burrowes was finally on a flight for Singapore set for takeoff at 5.50pm. Good luck, Simon!
Jet Me Out Of Here! Stayput Simon All Set to Fly

Latest Phuket News

Phuket Insurance Bid: Patong Jetskis Multiply
Latest A meeting of authorities, police and jetski communities hears of plans for compulsory insurance, and the mystery of how jetski numbers grew beyond limits.
Phuket Insurance Bid: Patong Jetskis Multiply

Burma Trial Likely To Trigger Phuket Condemnation
Latest: Diplomats were gathering on Phuket today amid expectations of criticism as the trial of Burma's most famous citizen began on what the world sees as trumped up charges.
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Flu Alert: All Phuket Arrivals Face Thermal Scans
Latest Passengers disembarking every domestic and international flight at Phuket airport are now undergoing a thermal scan as checks on H1N1 flu intensify.
Flu Alert: All Phuket Arrivals Face Thermal Scans

Boat People: Military Officials Cleared, says PM
Photo Album Thailand's Prime Minister tells a journalist in Hong Kong that the policy of pushbacks for Rohingya boat people has ceased and that officials involved have been cleared.
Boat People: Military Officials Cleared, says PM

Jet Me Out Of Here! Stayput Simon All Set to Fly
Airport Photo Album After an extra three months of ''holiday'' on Phuket, troubled British tourist Simon Burrowes was finally on a flight for Singapore set for takeoff at 5.50pm. Good luck, Simon!
Jet Me Out Of Here! Stayput Simon All Set to Fly

Recent Phuketwan MediaWATCH

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MediaWATCH: Flu Surge Sweeps Japan

MediaWATCH: Thailand Tourism's Perfect Storm
Latest Tourism leaders see more pain ahead; PAD applies to become a political party; Consumer confidence down; The fight to save whale sharks, and Aung San Suu Kyi.
MediaWATCH: Thailand Tourism's Perfect Storm


Comments have been disabled for this article.


I believe that Patong has a group of foreign immigration volunteers who have previously helped mediate in these situations - led by Colonel Grissak. Are this group still operating? It certainly seems that individuals more sensitive to foreign ways are needed to intervene before situations escalate into international "disasters" of this kind. "Tourist court" seems a little late for me!

Posted by Anonymous on May 19, 2009 09:18


Sorry to say that but some Thai officials are xenophobes.

Posted by Jean- Paul Patrick on May 19, 2009 11:09


Manners maketh man.
Be polite, don't swear and curse, smile. It eases many situations.
If you lose face here, you will simply lose your freedom.
Simple philosophy, folks.

Posted by Graham on May 19, 2009 11:28


At the airport we should have welcoming signs like Singapore.... definately NO drugs, sex, pornography, chewing gum, rudeness, stealing, speaking etc ......

Posted by Beebop on May 19, 2009 12:08


I am an Australian Citizen (sadly) and I have and continue to travel extensively throughout the world. In some 37 years of travel, with the exception of being detained by authorities at Moscow airport when the Berlin wall came down I have never gotten myself into trouble with the authorities of a sovereign state.

I am tired of listening to whinging weeping Australians and others who travel overseas and get themselves into trouble with the law or the culture of the host country.

This latest episode with the Smoel woman is another example of "Ugly Australians" behaving badly when overseas. I have witnessed offensive antics on numerous occasions in Thailand.

When you behave in this manner you offend the host nations citizens and treat their laws and culture with contempt. That not only reflects badly on the individual and myself but also the Australian Government and its international image.

Hats off to the Thai police, at least they enforce the law in their country unlike this one where a limp wristed soft approach to crime prevails.

Posted by Adrian Thomas on May 19, 2009 12:57


Just be cool, calm , quiet, nice and mannerly. .Is that so hard?
Be rude,angry and unpleasant and lose your passport, your freedom and maybe your job and your home as well.

Posted by Robbie Needham on May 19, 2009 15:05


I agree.. rude behavior and abuse is not called for. On the other hand - incidences will continue to happen until Thai authorities stop turning a blind eye to the scamming of tourists. At the very least - they need to properly restrain taxi drivers/tuk tuk drivers. I have been once to thailand - bangkok, koh samui and phuket.

I won't be back. I got sick and tired of arguing with taxi drivers. yes I do want the meter on, No I don't want to go to a gem store. no I want the meter on. no gem store....sigh... got so sick of it. Where I want to go is closed? Take me there anyway. meter please. oh look!! fancy that - its open!!. no meter - no pay.

Posted by evan on May 19, 2009 15:14


Bit puzzled here about allegations of rude behaviour by this woman which now appear to be written in stone.
The main source for this appears to be the bar owner who was not present on the night in question but who is waxing on Australian Radio. Might be time to reduce the cost of his beermats from A$60. Can we have a second source?
Why has the woman not been charged with insulting police?

Posted by Andy on May 19, 2009 17:19


Dear Editor, I think this should also go in this section. Thank you. Hey, does the Aussie Bar have any say in this? Can they ask for charges to be dropped? I personally won't go back to that bar if it doesn't intervene. As for the woman's rudeness, well, we Aussies get a bit out of hand and she should have kept her temper if that is what really happened.

Posted by Liesl on May 19, 2009 19:18


The person should have not done anything with the mat but instead held the airport hostage and closed it for a week. You apparently do not go to jail for doing that.

Posted by Anonymous on May 20, 2009 09:34


Ridiculous - having a drunken night out is not a crime - Police should be concentrating on drunk drivers, unlicensed drivers, spousal abuse etc. not petty crimes like this or being "envoys" for VIPS

Posted by Anonymous on May 20, 2009 11:06


NO - I am not a spambot !

It has been alleged in this article, with no evidence given ("Phuketwan has been told " - told by whom ? where is the evidence that this is other than malicious gossip ?) that the true crime was not theft but was "Impolite behavior" or "rudeness".

If so, why is the defendant being charged with theft and not with "rudeness". Or is a trumped up charge of theft being used to "bully" someone because certain officials feelings were hurt ?

It implies that a person can be charged at any time, with any crime, regardless if they have committed that crime, merely because the officials do not like that person. It does not say much for the quality of justice.

Very bad for Tourism, very bad for Thailand's image.

Posted by Anonymous on May 20, 2009 11:52


No logical Western thinkng on the part of the locals. I have been threatened with tailors scissors once, when I argued that the price of making cushion covers was not what was agreed.

Posted by Anonymous on May 21, 2009 11:19


If I was busted stealing an $80 Bar Mat in my hometown of Melbourne I would probably be charged and forbidden to leave the country until my hearing.

In some countries they would want to CUT OFF MY HAND. I don't get what all the fuss is about.In my opinion all the media attention this particular case has generated is a waste of space compared to say Aung San Suu Kyi not getting a fair trial!

Posted by Kate on May 22, 2009 12:27


My apologies to Thai people. It's a shame when some people are just rude, with no manners.

Posted by Frank on May 24, 2009 09:05


The Aussie bar owner is a disgrace to all expat businesses for letting things come to a head over NOTHING. Being Aussies ourselves we'll not be seen anytime soon again in your bar, mate!

Posted by Ian on May 31, 2009 10:39


the whole story is just a joke and it shows how sick the thai justice is...

You can kill two people here and walk free after two hours and then you lock a woman for a barmat? How funny is that? Let's be honest, two days in a cell for being rude?

Posted by Mike on May 31, 2009 13:18


How many times are we ripped off by taxi drivers, or sales persons and nothing happens? i cannot take the thai law seriously.

if you have good friends here and enough money, they let you go with everything and then they lock a woman for that?

Even is she was rude, where is the kindness?

Posted by Tom on May 31, 2009 13:22


Phuket has lost it for me. I am SICK of the time share touts hassling me all day and the "lets rip off the tourist" attitude. I'm staying in Australia and spending my $ here

Posted by Johans on May 31, 2009 23:27

Monday September 27, 2021
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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