Tourism News

Tourism News Phuketwan Tourism News
facebook recommendations


Sign up now for our News Alert emails and the latest breaking news plus new features.

Click to subscribe

Existing subscribers can unsubscribe here


Derryn Ruolle and Tamara Robins outside the room at the Phuket resort

Unsafe Phuket: Resort Declines to Compensate Robbed Aussie Tourists

Sunday, January 1, 2012
PHUKET: An Australian couple on holiday on Phuket ate a Christmas dinner at their resort that they say cost them US$20,000, plus tip.

The meal was enjoyable, but the size of the bill only really became apparent once the couple returned to their room.

There, Tamara Robins, 28, and Derryn Ruolle, 29, found the front door ajar, and the room safe open and empty, except for their passports.

Gone were laptops, a camera, a mobile phone, a purse containing cash and credit cards, wedding and engagement rings, and another precious ring that once belonged to Tamara's great-grandmother.

''If only I'd worn the rings to dinner,'' said Tamara later, tearfully. The biggest shock, though, was to come when the couple were told that the resort where they were staying, the Manathai at upmarket Surin beach, on Phuket's west coast, would only be offering a refund on their room as compensation.

All expenses were waived, however, ''to show concern and support.'' Basically, the resort management say they have no way of knowing the real value of what the couple put in the safe until the stolen items are recovered.

The management decision not to make any offer of compensation came even though a data log showed the safe was last opened by the resort's master key, which is usually kept at the resort front desk, just a few metres from the resort's restaurant, where the couple had dinner.

Investigating officer Lieutenant Sarit Bootnongsang from Cherng Talay Station says 10 members of staff have been interviewed about the theft, but he describes the resort management as ''unhelpful.''

On the other hand, resort manager Tanadol Pongkhankam says he hopes that the police can resolve the case and that their guests get back the stolen items. But compensation? Out of the question.

Ms Robins and Ms Ruolle, who come from Adelaide and live in Hong Kong, remain shocked and angry. Although both acknowledge they should have had travel insurance, they believe the resort has a moral obligation to compensate them and have engaged a lawyer to pursue further action.

Thefts that are probably inside jobs are not uncommon on Phuket, where the tropical holiday island's image has been suffering lately from revelations of jet-ski scams, rip-offs, drink-spiking thefts and other criminal activities.

Intimidation and extortionately high fares have made the local tin-can tuk-tuks an undesirable form of transport, but the drivers impose a public transport monopoly after dark that leaves tourists with few choices except to pay through the nose.

Although Phuket remains a great place for a holiday, increasingly there appears to be a lack of appropriate assistance from authorities for those who do find themselves in trouble.

The most disturbing point of all is that holidaymakers everywhere tend to have faith that if they do need help, authorities will come to their assistance. On Phuket these days, that's not always a certainty.

A Russian man whose leg was badly cut by the propeller of a parasail speedboat as he swam at Kata beach in early December was left to languish in a local hospital. No effort was made to enforce compensation or even to reprimand the driver. The official who oversees Phuket's speedboats and jet-skis, Phuripat Theerakulpisut, merely described the incident as ''natural.''

Soon after, a South African man on a jet-ski crashed into two Australian women on another jet-ski at Patong, putting one of them in hospital for more than a week. While the South African agreed to pay for all the damage to the jet-skis, two hirers turned up at the hospital a couple of days later, seeking to extract more compensation from the injured woman.

The latest rip-off is for motorcycle hirers to let a visitor take a rented motorcycle then steal it back in the middle of the night, using a second key, to demand compensation come daylight.

One expat resident of 10 years' standing says Patong, the nightlife hub on Phuket's west coast, is ''completely and utterly out of control'' when it comes to protecting tourists from scams and rip-offs.

Police say drink-spiking and theft is rife but few victims report the crime - Asian male visitors are said to be a popular target - possibly out of embarrassment. It's certainly possible for men on the make to get laid and robbed in quick succession faster in Patong than just about anywhere else in the world.

More difficult to establish are claims that some bar hostesses brush sleeping drugs onto their nipples.

Phuket, though, has enough broad entertainment options to appeal to families as well as fornicators. Luxury villas and five-star resorts are these days attracting an upmarket audience at the same time as expat beggars are becoming less rare.

Direct flights from Hong Kong and other regional destinations have helped to attract two million international visitors to Phuket this year.

As well as the appeal of Phuket's beaches and coral reefs, the place also has drawing power for travellers looking for fun because of its carefree approach.

While admitting they should have been more cautious, Tamara Robins and Derryn Ruolle would never-the-less like to see far greater accent on the ''care'' aspect of that phrase.

Their case is an object lesson to all travellers. Yes, you can use the safe in your room. But if the items in the safe are stolen, how do you prove it was theft, and how do you prove what was stolen?

A version of this article appears in today's South China Morning Post newspaper in Hong Kong.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


These room safes are not safe. Do not trust them. And I think the resorts have even a printout in the room saying, they are not responsible for any theft. Is it just a box, you can hide things from your kids? One should at least be told so. Travel light or use the central hotel safe with receipt. Sorry for the ring.

Posted by Lena on January 1, 2012 07:59


I stay in hotels around the world quite a lot and I think there's usually notice on/near the safe stating to the effect that guests place items in the safe at their own risk and that the hotel takes no responsibility for any missing items. If this was the case here, then I'm afraid the resort does not have a moral obligation to compensate them. Saying this though, I too would be p****d off if it was proved that the safe was opened by master key normally kept at the front desk (and which I assume was returned to the front desk after the theft as there is no mention of it being missing).

What about CCTV cameras in the corridors, lift lobbies etc?....this is usually the norm these days.

As often is the case though, a little more personal vigilance on behalf of the victims would be advised; don't leave items of sentimental value in the safe (why take off your wedding rings?) and make sure you are well insured.

Posted by Andy on January 1, 2012 08:50

Editor Comment:

There was a small notice in the room along those lines but the guests - like most people on short holidays - did not see it or read it until after their possessions had vanished. The notice probably should be stuck to the safe door, not on a loose piece of card. The resort acknowledges it's a deficiency not to have security cameras on the premises these days. The master key was kept in a safe at the front desk, with access available to just one member of staff, according to the resort.


Ed, thanks for the further info. (moderated)

Posted by Andy on January 1, 2012 09:30

Editor Comment:

We are not able to speculate as to what might have happened. Yes, forensic police checked for fingerprints in the room as part of the police investigation.


can we please get rid of those stupid pop out ads at the side of the page please - unnecessary and unhelpful!!

Posted by another steve on January 1, 2012 09:44

Editor Comment:

Send your 20 year subscription today, another steve, and we'll do it straight away.


and that my friends is why you ALWAYS take out travel insurance......

Posted by Kay Of Australia on January 1, 2012 09:47


I lost all sympathy when I read they did not have travel insurance.

Posted by Joel M on January 1, 2012 10:33


Seems pretty crazy to bring $20,000 worth of jewelry and kit on holiday to Phuket in the first place considering it's appalling reputation internationally.

Have to love the attitude of the resort manager. " Hope the police catch the employee who stole the stuff, as I don't give a damn!"

Not great PR for Phuket.

Posted by Anthony on January 1, 2012 11:51


As an expat resident (travel insurance not applicable) I had a lot of money stolen from me last week by a trusted, long time Thai employee.

Posted by Sam on January 1, 2012 13:41

Editor Comment:

That's unfortunate but it would be foolish to assume that what happened to you is necessarily what happens in every other case.


A tourist leaves his personal property in a locked hotel room in a secure safe. His property is stolen and it's his fault?

I thought I was on the wrong site and had accidentally reached

Most places only allow certain people access to the master key so how about putting the blame on the guilty rather than the innocent guests?

If the manager can't figure out who the culprit is, or is not prepared to investigate, he should expect us to consider the whole resort dodgy.

If your gear is not secure in a locked room in a safe that nobody can open without a master key, where would it be secure??

Maybe in the hotel's safe, with the master key!!

Posted by logbags on January 1, 2012 14:55


"same time as expat beggars are becoming less rare.'' Is this serious journalism or perhaps this statement is a joke. A bit of snobbery perhaps.

Posted by ivan on January 1, 2012 15:46

Editor Comment:

If you find it so hard to believe, you should talk to honorary consuls about the increasing number of people who come to them for financial help. No ''snobbery'' about it. On Boxing Day you were george, now you're ivan. Is there something happening you're not telling us?


Just proves once again how dodgy Phuket is.

Posted by titima on January 1, 2012 16:19


i had same thing cash only though so impossible to link but safe usually says they are only liable up to 500 dollars or something depending on resort
as earlier suggestion, best way is front desk safety boxes
but don't see why it's so hard to solve.

Posted by Michael on January 2, 2012 08:17


Sure best way is front desk safety boxes, and even better if they are secured with a padlock that belongs to the guest.

Posted by Sherlock on January 2, 2012 16:37


Does the resort have electronic key cards, they could show who entered the room on that day at what time.

Did the policy take finger prints around the safe area and compare it with finger print of the employees who accessed the rooms.

Spare key, what kind of safe is that, most hotels now have electronic safes, where you use your personal pass word to open close the safe records the opening times . The so called master is an electronic device, which is used by hotel managment to open, when guests forget their combination numbers.

Seems that for a small luxury resort they have little investment into basic hotel safety systems, no cctvs , save that open with a master key kept with employees, no key cards to find out who entered the guest room at what time.

It is international hotel standards to insure guest room safest to a maximum amount of break in or theft value, usually around B 50.000.00 in Thailand, higher in some other countries. It is common request for customers when having high value items in their safe to declare them and to put them at the safe at front desk, which usually have a double key systems and if one party looses the key there is no master, you have to break the safe lock.

Patong Hotelier

Posted by wm on January 2, 2012 18:00


I just checked this hotel on Tripadvisor and was saddened to see that this is not the first time that kit has been stolen from this hotel.

I still do not think it will take Sherlock Holmes to narrow the list of suspects.

Being Phuket I strongly suspect that nothing will be done.

Posted by Anthony on January 2, 2012 18:07


This is a constant problem, There are many types of safes in Hotel rooms and in the Lobby, non are safe.
Buy a piece of chain and lock for your safe, the cupboard door, motor cycle or suit case. It works for me. I know I shouldn't have to but it makes a statement. You will also see two problems, sometimes a little money at a time stolen then larger amounts as the departure date gets closer.

Posted by LAW on January 2, 2012 19:47


As the Australian Government Smart Traveller Websites says,"If you cannot afford travel insurance you cannot afford to travel."
No Australian resort would compensate, as far as I know.

Posted by arthur on January 3, 2012 05:40


1 of 5 stars Reviewed 8 January 2012 NEW

On Christmas Day 2011 our Manathai hotel room (514) and hotel safe were broken into with all our valuables stolen! We arrived back at our hotel room after dinner at the Manathai restaurant to find our hotel room front and back doors open (there were no signs of damage to either door). We then checked the safe and were horrified.
trip advisor

Posted by Jamie on January 11, 2012 04:05


I'm not necessarily doubting that these people were robbed. However, from the hotelier's perspective, it is worth noting the frequency with which these claims are fraudulent - ask any hotel GM. The safe indicates it was last opened with the master key, but not when? This does seem like an awful lot of loot. Was all of it supposedly in the safe? Must have been a big safe. And most people never take off their wedding rings, especially before going out to dinner. As a former hotel manager myself, I can understand the management's decision to proceed cautiously here.

Posted by matt on January 12, 2012 17:05

Friday June 21, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


Facebook Twitter