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Tracy Ann Walton, 51, had complained of feeling Phuket's heat and humidity

Same-Day Phuket Deaths Highlight Lack of Australian Consulate Care

Wednesday, September 4, 2013
PHUKET: An Australian holidaymaker has died in a Phuket resort from a preexisting medical condition, according to local officials.

The woman, Tracy Ann Walton, 51, had complained of feeling the heat and humidity on Phuket, said Patong policeman Colonel Thawatchai Srimai.

An emergency team from Patong Hospital was called to Patong Beach Resort about 2am on Tuesday. The Australian was found on the floor, next to her bed.

It is believes she suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes. Her body is at Patong Hospital.

Travelling overseas may have been a new experience for Ms Walton. Her passport was issued on August 12.

A second Australian, Tristan Sheridan, died within hours on Tuesday morning after his motorcycle crashed into a pole in Patong about 5.30am.

He was taken to Patong Hospital then transferred to Vachira Phuket Hospital in Phuket City, where he died at 8.52am.

Although the number of Australian visitors to Phuket has tripled since the 2004 tsunami, the Australian government has opted not to open a fully-staffed consulate.

Instead, a replacement is being sought for Australian honorary consul, Larry Cunningham, who retires on September 30.

Mr Cunningham said this week that as many as 50 Australians die on Phuket each year and up to 200 are arrested by police or Immigration officials.

More than 300,000 Australian holidaymakers come to Phuket each year. Several nations with smaller visitor numbers already have fully-staffed consulates on the island.

Other honorary consuls on Phuket are surprised that Australia does not have full-time facilities to assist Australian holidaymakers and expat residents.

Mr Cunningham was appointed after the tsunami when Australian officials realised that Phuket was too far from Bangkok for envoys based there to provide fast, efficient care.

However, the present Australian government appears to have taken no account of the vast surge in visitors from Australia to Phuket in the ensuing years.

Delivering assistance in tragedies becomes more difficult from Bangkok. Mr Cunningham's exceptional work rate has been acknowledged by the Australian Ambassador, James Wise.

Unless an equally skilled replacement for Mr Cunningham is found speedily, expat Australians on Phuket are likely to have to travel to Bangkok for passport renewals and other services.

Comments

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The Australian Government would obviously like to transfer the risk of managing the problem on to some well seasoned Australian expatriate that thinks he or she is 10 foot tall and bullet proof, has a huge bank account and has conversant bilingual network of staff to deal with the problem in every respect, as opposed to taking responsibility for themselves. Brilliant risk management philosophy I'd say. The question is how long will it last?

Posted by Man of steel on September 4, 2013 08:17

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Your headline seems to infer that the Australian Consulate doesn't care about their nationals on Phuket, I'm sure that wasn't your intent but still....

It's a moot point as to whether there should be an increase in Consular services. In my mind, it is equally moot as to whether some of these services should continue. I refer to those services provided to people who continually fail to take responsibility for their own actions - the "problem" people.

I perceive this "problem" has arisen from the emergence of several factors concurrently over the past decade or so. The advent of low cost carriers enabling Australians to travel here cheaply, sometimes cheaper than fares within their home country. The exchange rate increasing their purchasing power whilst here. The ability to indulge in hedonistic pleasures far easier than at home where "nanny state" measures exist, such as RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol). Notions like Duty of Care and Workplace Health and Safety are rarely heard of here.

The net result is that there has been an upsurge in the type of tourist that will find trouble. The unedifying spectacles that accompany end-of-season footy trips, nights of binge drinking and generally obnoxious behaviour, having scant regard for the local culture and customs. Some come here without any, let alone international, drivers licences but still get to hire motor bikes, often without helmets. Sure, one could blame the Thai hirers for this does not detract from the nub of the issue - failure to take responsibility for ones own actions.

The Honorary Consul has, during his term, spent an inordinate amount of time assisting these folks out of situations of their own making. A thankless task, getting summoned to a police station miles from home in the wee hours of the morning, only to be abused by some intoxicated buffoon who thinks it is the government's responsibility to get them out of any situation, no matter the cause.
One doesn't get consular assistance in ones home country in these sorts if instances, so why should they here?

I would , as an Aussie taxpayer, implore my government, whoever it may be after this coming Saturday, to amend their processes and cease consular assistance for drunken fools. Perhaps they could consider handing out flyers on incoming aircraft outlining mutual responsibilities and drawing a more effective line as to where Consular assistance will begin and end. Then, with luck, we might just find a replacement for Mr Cunningham and who may just get some job satisfaction during his tenure.

Posted by Tony Hicks on September 4, 2013 10:32

Editor Comment:

''One doesn't get consular assistance in ones home country in these sorts if instances, so why should they here?''

To allow consuls to discriminate between deserving and non-deserving citizens is the first step on a slippery path to anarchy and chaos, or worse. I am sure there are consuls who provide no assistance - because that's not considered to be appropriate by their governments. Why not move to one of those countries? If you wish to take Australia down that route, perhaps you should run for election. Why not reject the citizens you don't want as they return from their holidays? Send them to PNG or Nauru. Problem solved.

The headline says ''lack of Australian consulate care'' not ''lack of Australian consular care.'' There is a big difference. We can't be held responsible for readers' misinterpretations.

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Good point Mr Editor, I certainly wouldn't want to go down that road. By the way, If I did, I would send them all back to Phuket!! *

As you know, our politicians are busy trying to garner votes to stop all asylum seekers coming to Australia, don't give them ideas to extend that philosophy to returning holiday makers, please!

* Joking - I think you know that, just making sure your readers do too.

Posted by Tony Hicks on September 4, 2013 11:19

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Curious as to how either of these incidents suggest a lack of consular care? What could a Consul have done to prevent two apparent accidents? Larry is still in post so there IS consular care until 30 Sep anyway.

Posted by Mister Ree on September 4, 2013 11:27

Editor Comment:

The heading says ''consulate care.'' As this article reports, Australians are finding trouble on Phuket with increasing frequency. Yet a plan to establish a fully-staffed Australian consulate on Phuket has been abandoned by a government that doesn't recognise an obvious growing need. Not enough votes in this issue.

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Yes Terry, heaven forbid the great unwashed working classes being able to afford a holiday overseas.

Posted by Tommy on September 4, 2013 11:31

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Maybe some Thai, maybe a lady, maybe some high ranking official, maybe even from some foreigner related public office, like ehm... the local branch of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, would be willing to start working as honorary consul for the great and charming Aussies of Trouble in Phuket. At least that would be punishment enough.

But then, working for "the other side" aka prey might be too much of an eye opener.

Posted by Lena on September 4, 2013 12:35

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No one should begrudge anyone of a good holiday, Tommy, whatever their social or financial standing. This is not a class warfare issue, in my experience antisocial behaviour transcends all types, whether they be backpackers or HiSo people in 5 star resorts. The crux of the issue remains taking responsibility for your own actions, whatever your background.

Posted by Tony Hicks on September 4, 2013 13:05

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That might be true Tony, but not all Australians are well traveled and educated like yourself in order to make well-informed decisions.
The point of the matter is that a established Consulate rather than an Honorary Consul (HC) role would better positioned to deal with these matters as opposed transferring all of the risks upon a HC with very little experience in complex Consul matters, which continues to arise on a daily basis, as history has shown in more than recent times.
For some time now the outgoing HC ''Larry'' appears to have been the scapegoat. I'm sure prior to taking on the role back in 2005, he thought that was making a balanced risk benefit decision, but eventually he obviously later discovered that the demand for the role was evolving to be much larger, and that the risks relating to the work load involved was perhaps originally hidden from him at the outset.

Posted by Man of steel on September 4, 2013 14:03

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All of us Australians who travel to Phuket should be thankfull that Larry Cunningham has done such a tremendous job as Honorary Consul but it is beyond time that our government opened a full time consulate on the island.
To me it is a matter of shame that the government will not do so.
I know some Australians actually get themselves into trouble via there own stupidity and drunkenness but this is no excuse for government inaction.
Finally Thank You Mr Cunningham for your hard work and dedication.

Posted by Arthur on September 4, 2013 14:48


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