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Steve Balzary, a businessman on a family holiday to Phuket

Wounded Aussies Aim to Hit Back at Phuket's 'Uncontrolled Patong Violence'

Monday, January 30, 2012
Photo Album Above: Warning, graphic Images

PHUKET: Three tourists who were badly wounded in a brawl at a Phuket nightclub aim to push for action to be taken against their attackers on Phuket, and to demand that the Australian Government issues a warning about random violence on the holiday island.

One of the men spoke out for the first time yesterday after returning to Australia.

Steve Balzary, who was celebrating his 50th birthday when the attack took place at Patong's Rock City early last Monday, said he believed the assault by between 10 and 15 locals was a planned ''farang lynching'' - the term coined by Phuket expats for a premeditated thrill assault on expat tourists (farang).

The attack on Mr Balzary, his son Michael and a famous friend came just weeks after Phuket Police Commander, Major General Chonsit Wadhnawarangkun ordered all Phuket venue owners to prevent violence and to take responsibility for the actions of their staff.

Major General Chonsit's order followed a vicious attack with a homemade axe on a Phuket resort owner-manager. Eight men - all staff at a pub that was open after hours in Phuket City - have been arrested and are likely to face attempted murder charges over the attack on Vorasit ''Wan'' Issara.

But so far, only one man has been arrested - and allowed bail for a relatively minor charge - in relation to the attack on the three Australians.

''We think between 10 and 15 men carried out a planned attack on us,'' Mr Balzary said yesterday by telephone from Canberra, the Australian capital, where he lives.

''They hit us with bar stools and at least one knife was used,'' Mr Balzary said. ''Four or five men gathered around each of us, then jumped us. Our wounds are consistent with us being attacked from behind.

''Having been hit over the head from behind, I thought I was as good as dead. Given the severity of our wounds, four or five of those men should be facing attempted murder charges.''

Mr Balzary, a business owner and consultant, is a regular traveller to Asia and has enjoyed Phuket holidays in the past.

''My family and I never realised until the attack how dangerous Phuket could be,'' he said. ''We thought it was a safe, peaceful place. I reckon Patong is on a par now with Manila, where you venture out carefully because of the risk of unprovoked random attacks.''

Mr Balzary said he believed the man from the Rock City nightclub who was charged concocted a tale that the Australians spat at a female staff member and danced on the speakers to cover up the real crime - a premeditated attack on the three men, from behind.

One of Mr Balzary's sons was also bashed from behind while a third Australian, a friend who achieved nationwide fame as a footballer, now needs plastic surgery to his face. Mr Balzary believes his friend was struck in the face with a broken glass.

Another of Mr Balzary's sons had been taking photographs during the birthday night out, but was in the toilet when the attack took place. Mr Balzary believes his attackers waited until his son was no longer taking photographs before carrying out their attack.

''It was a pleasant night out until then,'' Mr Balzary said. ''We weren't binge drinking, nothing like that, just having a good time. We started dancing to the band when we first arrived there, and some other expats started dancing as well.''

About 1.45am, Mr Balzary saw four or five men surrounding his son. He walked over to ask what was going on - and was jumped himself by as many as four or five men, he says.

''I just got whacked over the head with something hard and metal,'' he said. ''I got up and was whacked again.''

Mr Balzary had about 20 stitches at Patong Hospital in a head wound, and about 20 more in an arm wound that he believes was probably caused by a knife.

A tuk-tuk driver eventually agreed to transport the injured Australians to hospital, for a 1000 baht fare.

''The people at the hospital were fantastic,'' Mr Balzary said. ''And when the owner of the place where we were staying heard what had happened, she was furious about what it means for Patong's reputation.

''Like many other people in the tourism industry, she knows how important it is for Patong to not gain a reputation for needless violence.''

Police officers went to the hospital and asked the Australians to visit Kathu Police Station the following day at 10am. ''We eventually got to talk to an officer about two hours later,'' Mr Balzary said.

He has already spoken to a lawyer on Phuket and intends to write to the Phuket Police Commander and Australia's Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd.

''We have had such a good time on Phuket in the past, as a family group, that I was thinking about buying a villa up behind Patong,'' Mr Balzary said.

''We had no idea that there was this kind of random violence. The potential is, of course, for someone to get killed. We think these people have done this kind of thing before.

''It's certainly noticeable to me that the people in Patong have become more aggressive and assertive since my last visit 18 months ago. This trip, we went out of our way to find non-aligned tuk-tuk drivers because the others are not very pleasant.

''People are becoming so scared that visitors are being advised to only go to bars run by Australians. We didn't want to go to bars like that, we wanted to enjoy the local experience.

''To me, a bar or nightclub where this kind of thing happens should be automatically shut down for a week or more. (Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha closed the Phuket City bar for 90 days after the axe attack.)

''There should be a register for security staff at night venues. And training is needed so that security staff know how to intervene to keep the peace if necessary, not carry out severe retribution.

''In our case, there was nothing we did that was cause for violence of any kind. Three of us were badly wounded. One man was arrested, then bailed. That doesn't seem right.''

He warned all tourists visiting Patong to stay away from ''any place with four walls.''

''In the open-air bars you can see and be seen,'' he said. ''Once you go behind closed doors in Patong, anything can happen.''

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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''To me, a bar or nightclub where this kind of thing happens should be automatically shut down for a week or more. (Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha closed the Phuket City bar for 90 days after the axe attack.)

Nothing will happen to Rock City - just another palm will be crossed with silver - and the really bad point is that it is tourists who keep Phuket going but the only time anything constructive is done by the police etc is when it is one of the locals who is hurt - and the reason they hurt the now famous GM was because they thought he was Korean and not a wealthy Thai. I wish the people involved with this disgusting but now becoming familiar attack the best of luck in trying to get the people involved brought to some kind of justice - but i will not hold my breath.....

Posted by Anonymous on January 30, 2012 12:50

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In the years i have spent in Thailand i have seen some hideous things done by Thais not only to Farangs, but other Thais as well. And the tuk tuk jerk who took advantage of these battered guys and charged them 1000 baht to go from Rock City to Patong Hospital...how shameful !

Posted by carvets on January 30, 2012 12:52

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Why did this happen? Nothing can justify such an attack, but there must be something that triggered this aggression.
Would be good to know, so tourists can avoid to get into trouble in the future.

Posted by Sherlock on January 30, 2012 14:07

Editor Comment:

Both perspectives are clearly outlined in the article, Sherlock. The tourist says it was an unprovoked attack. The security person says one of their group spat at a woman staff member and danced on a speaker. It's pointless asking questions without reading the article.

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He say's this was a ferang lynching...
why were they singled out, buy the looks of the club photo the club looks pretty full?

And to quote "Mr Balzary saw four or five men surrounding his son. He walked over to ask what was going on - and was jumped himself by as many as four or five men, he says." So what might have triggered this to have 4-5 rock city security guys surrounding his son?

Posted by ??????? on January 30, 2012 14:39

Editor Comment:

The reason why the term ''farang lynching'' has been coined is to describe violence for the sake of violence. The other concern among honorary consuls is that where tourists do the wrong thing and get involved in an argument, even a petty one, the retribution is severe. Police are not called. Rough justice is meted out.

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Pretty shocking stuff here if this man's accusations are true, and I have no reason to believe they aren't.

And I agree that this club should be shut down, at least pending results of a full investigation. Club owners need to be held responsible for the actions of their staff.

And cheers Ed for the pic captions! My 50 yr subscription check is in the mail... watch for it.

Posted by Relox on January 30, 2012 14:41

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Dear Ed, your own article says that Mr Balzary said he believed the man from the Rock City nightclub who was charged concocted a tale that the Australians spat at a female staff member and danced on the speakers.
Mr Balzary don't look like a person, who would do that. I meant what did really happen?

Posted by Sherlock on January 30, 2012 14:58

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Allegedly spat at a woman and danced on a speaker? Then get bashed in the head for it? The only reason why these things happen is that the locals have the perception that they can do pretty much whatever they want to non-locals.

And that TukTuk driver charging them 1,000 baht to take them to the hospital was totally uncalled for. Seeing people bleeding and in distress should have been a no-brainer for a free ride in the spirit of being a good citizen. But I guess asking for money no matter what is the theme in some parts of Phuket.

Posted by Relic on January 30, 2012 14:58

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Having read the article it clearly does not state both sides of the story - it is claimed by the victim that a member of the security staff concocted a story to justify the incident. Has the management of Rock City been contacted for a statement concerning this incident or will we just get more ascerbic comment from Mr Ed concerning? I agree that there are two sides to a story - we just don't seem to have them at present.

Posted by Mister Ree on January 30, 2012 15:09

Editor Comment:

Feel free to pop along yourself, Mr Ree and ask. Meanwhile, I'll be the arbiter of what assignments I and Phuketwan reporters should carry out on your behalf. Don't overlook your subscription, will you?

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From one of the pictures, it seems that there were loads of other foreigners at the club that night. It would be interesting to hear their account of the fight.

Posted by Mike on January 30, 2012 15:28

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I guess there is no CCTV inside the bar or is there?

Posted by 8YearsInTH on January 30, 2012 17:06

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Without trying to offend the Editor (a difficult task apparently) . . .

Posted by Anonymous on January 30, 2012 17:14

Editor Comment:

I'm not offended, just surprised that you'd think a critical comment with no name on it - your first I believe - would be published, let alone elicit a response. Once police have decided the rights and wrongs of a case - whether it's one arrest or eight - we don't usually question their decisions, unless the accused claims unfair arrest. Then it's up to the courts. We're journalists, not judges.

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As a consumer you can stop going to the mentioned night club, which I will do.

Posted by wm on January 30, 2012 18:00

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Thailand and specially Phuket is loosing face again and again.....

Posted by Dominik on January 30, 2012 20:07

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Well he wanted the local experiance so i guess he got it . When read this stuff i realize how lucky i was when i used to visit Phuket not a care in the world but not anymore . I will visit no more my wife keeps on asking to visit but after this no way.

Posted by JH on January 30, 2012 20:24

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I am very very sad about what have become here in patong. Please clean up the mess. Please...

Posted by One Expat 11 years on January 30, 2012 21:38

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This is rather interesting, an official travel warning about random, extreme violence would MAYBE get some results..And even if somebody spat at a waitress and danced on a speaker, there is no way an attempted murder is somehow ok as a reaction.

Posted by christian on January 30, 2012 21:48

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Wait... really? You published the first sentence of my comment? That's it? Are you even pretending to be impartial here or do you just do edit the conversation to exactly what you want? I wasn't even being argumentative. Seriously... Don't even publish this, just let me know your answer. Honestly, I don't understand why my comment was blocked.

Posted by Anonymous on January 31, 2012 04:50

Editor Comment:

Anonymous, as a nameless person offering up criticism of others, you're like an empty thought bubble in a cartoon, with no sharp pointer to a character. Are you Donald Duck? Or maybe you're Spiderman? How can we tell? Put a name to your comments. Even with a name, I won't let you make claims that I know aren't true.

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Side note: In a land where corruption runs rampant, why oh why do you not question the decisions by the police? You're an independent new agency, correct? Why wouldn't you question anything and everything? That's your job. Isn't it your duty to report with fairness and accuracy? Look, I'm not even attacking you. I don't know you. We're fine, but man, I would love to know what Rock City says about those attacks. It would be great if I could find a paper in this town that had a comment about it from them... But c'est la vie. I don't get it, but I guess this is as good an answer as I will get.

Posted by Matthew R. Bartley on January 31, 2012 04:57

Editor Comment:

Perhaps you missed the relevant paragraphs, but this article contains the viewpoint of a victim who says that more people should be charged with offences over the incident. The decision by the police to charge just one person is being questioned - by someone who has a good idea of what took place. The photographs also pose plenty of questions - for others to pursue.

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yes i agree. why is it so hard to get the truth out here? i can not believe nobody know what really happen. i could research 1 night and inviste 1000 bath and i would know what happen...
and i hate as well when u publish my comments with your thinking of how a comment should be...

Posted by mike on January 31, 2012 11:56

Editor Comment:

Oh, you're talking about a bribe to find out the truth? Or at least, I think that's what you're saying. Sure mike, that really, really works. Hack a few phones too, why don't you?

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Yes hack phones. Wire taps. Stakeouts. Video surveillance. Break into Rock City's and steal their security camera footage. Bribe. Extort. Blackmail... Or just pick up the phone and call. Here's the number: (moderated). I would have already called them, but it's not my job.

Posted by Matthew R. Bartley on January 31, 2012 13:36

Editor Comment:

Something wrong with your fingers, Matthew? Hands tied behind your back? Make it your job, Matthew.

Happy dialling.

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Is that a job offer? I accept. Although I'm afraid I'm overqualified for the position. No, it seems we've reached an impasse: a lazy commenter meets a lazy journalist. Who will call? Who should? I suppose some questions don't have answers.

Posted by Matthew R. Bartley on January 31, 2012 13:56

Editor Comment:

Nobody here is lazy, Matthew. We're just able to tell right from wrong. You failed the test.

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I travel to Manila three times a year. It is far safer than Patong - and I'm not talking only Makati.

Posted by Anonymous on February 1, 2012 12:28

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Any reason for not naming the pub in Phuket Town?

Posted by Anonymous on February 2, 2012 12:53

Editor Comment:

No reason. You'll find it's mentioned frequently in previous articles. Any reason for not using a name, Anonymous?

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Ok Boys... stop fighting.
The violence is bad enough, yet have locals thought that by beating up farangs they will lose revenue that everyone seems to live off of on the island?

IF the AUS and US governments place warnings on travel to the island, the revenue cut will be severe, yet you do have the Russians....

Posted by EW on February 3, 2012 03:21

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Been to Phuket twice with my family, in 2008 and 2010. After reading stories like this more frequently, added by different scams taking place there, we have decided not to come back ever. Sad to see the way Phuket is heading...

Posted by JohnnyBoyFinland on February 7, 2012 15:51

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Its a shame Phuket is getting more bad publicity, Phuket is a beautiful place north of the Island nr Laguna we dont have this problem, like any town in the world i guess, when to much booze and partying , some get silly, don't stop coming to Phuket because of stories like this, there are many nicer places on the island than Patong, thats why so many expats love to live here!!

Posted by Claire on February 11, 2012 11:10

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true what happened that night was awful and i regret have happened but this story is so one sided... if u can just hear some the customers who were there that night you'll get a more clearer picture why they ended on the hospital. they were given many warnings of what not to do but they wouldn't listen.

Posted by Anonymous on February 14, 2012 19:46

Editor Comment:

Anonymous, are you saying that being glassed in the face - badly enough to require plastic surgery - and hit over the head from behind is a reasoned response, whether or not they ''wouldn't listen''? One-sided seems to adequately describe the nature of the wounds.

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Dear Sir, I am an Australian Lawyer and I have lived in Patong for 4 years. My area of practise imcludes among other criminal cases as well as international commercial transactions. The so call violence and randaom attacks by Thai on farang is completely false. In my experience, an interview with complainsnts reveals that these "victims" are never entirely innocent and most cases of violence which occur under provocation in the face of offensive behaviour. Your story lacks balance, is opportuntistic,
oversimplistic at least, and an embellishment at most lacking integrity You need to interview all parties and ascertain what the gentlemen means by fun. I have witnessed behaviour by Aussies who are usually drunk,offensive and have complete disregard for social mores and ettiquette incluing Thai sensibilty. While not perfect, Thai generally do not provoke, but will not back down if they beoome angry. There is a difference. Finally to believe that the Australian bars are bastions of security and decency is fancifull. The Australian Embassy often refers Aussie to me when they get into trouble, I would gladly advise DFAT on the issues foreigners encounter, and codes of conduct that avoid this sort of thing happening in future.

Posted by Julian on February 15, 2012 18:40

Editor Comment:

What are your fees, Julian? That would reveal whether you are really a lawyer, interested in justice, or an ''advocate'' looking for large pay-offs, as is so often the case on Phuket. As for your thoughts on this matter, I wonder whether anyone who generalises so broadly can be believed? Any judge would call you to the bar and tell you, in very few words, that you are having a lend of yourself. Surely any real lawyer would make judgements on individual cases, rather than generalise on the basis of nationality alone? If you are referred as a lawyer by the Australian Embassy, then perhaps it's time the embassy looked at whether you are an independent legal authority, or a charlatan.Your biased response on this issue would have you ostracised by the legal fraternites in most countries.

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Dear Ed,
sometimes your responses are the real thing on Phuketwan. Keep up your good work, looking forward to get toughened up again. Pretty awesome response to the advocate.

Posted by Lena on February 15, 2012 19:30

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No one called Julian on the Australian Embassy list of lawyers.

Posted by mike on February 16, 2012 18:05

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GIve Me a Break REALLY
"A Thrill Assault" IT takes to to tango and i highly doubt that the farangs were completely innocent and also had no alcohol and were not drunk at all

Posted by Anonymous on February 17, 2012 14:40

Editor Comment:

Nameless person, I don't think you get it. When three people are seriously wounded in an attack, it's a ''thrill assault.'' The Australians had no chance. They landed no punches. There are no injured security men. If the Australians were causing problems, the proper course of action is to call the police. Were the police called? No. It was a one-sided ambush, a ''thrill assault.'' Shameful that anyone would seek to justify it, really.

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Phuket wan is the best read on the island, I scan the articles and just read the comments. Keep it up Mr or Mrs Editor. Quality. :-) Peace and Love

Posted by jay leshark on February 24, 2012 18:44

Editor Comment:

Are we related? Third or fourth cousins?

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my thai g/f witnessed the attack ,she phoned and was distraught, nothing will come of it, theyre all in the mafia together

Posted by ayjay on February 25, 2012 21:29


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