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Simon Burrowes, fined 500 baht after losing his job, his apartment, paying legal costs and doing time in Phuket Prison over three months

Phuket 'Tourist Court' Simply Means Faster Justice for Everyone

Saturday, May 11, 2013
News Analysis

PHUKET: The notion of a ''Tourist Court'' appears to be being misrepresented by people who don't grasp the concept or the aim.

As Phuketwan has reported, the idea is for Phuket Provincial Court to extend its sitting hours into the night - and for cases involving tourists to be fast-tracked.

There is no suggestion that there would be one court for residents and another special court for tourists or expats.

One of the basic tenets of Thai law is that all people are equal before the law - a philosophy about justice that is shared around the world.

However, Thai authorities are suggesting improvements to prevent delays in the Thai system, where visitors have to wait weeks or months for justice.

Sometimes this means that tourists are forced to stay on Phuket or in Thailand longer than anticipated, meaning they incur additional unreasonable costs.

Sometimes it's an additional unreasonable punishment for tourists who are guilty of commiting crimes while on holiday.

Sometimes it's an additional unreasonable penalty for victims who have to decide whether to stay on to nail a criminal or simply go home on schedule.

Fast-tracking cases involving tourists - and that means visitors from Bangkok as well as visitors from Beijing or Bangalore or Brisbane - is a great idea to restore the balance of holiday justice.

Extending the hours that Phuket's courts sit will enable the island's judges to hear what a tourist has to say in a case without imposing an extra undeserved penalty on victims and witnesses.

Where the accused is a tourist, adjustments should be made to fast-track cases that do not involve violence or drugs, or warrant a major penalty.

The incident that Phuketwan remembers that best illustrates the need for change involved British citizen Simon Burrowes, who became the central character in a case in 2009 that was every tourist's nightmare.

He was kept in Thailand for an extra three months - including three weeks in Phuket Prison - for ''being rude'' to an official as he tried to catch his scheduled flight home.

As a result of allegedly swearing at Immigration on his way off Phuket and out of Thailand, the then 44-year-old Brit lost his job and his apartment.

And all because an official at Phuket International Airport questioned Simon's passport photo.

The passport and the photo were both genuine, but Simon was delayed and missed his flight back home and allegedly cursed his horrible bad luck in the process. Using the F-word proved unwise.

A Phuket Airport official thought Simon was swearing at her . . . and his short holiday on Phuket became a long holiday he will never forget.

Being a Catch 22 situation, with his passport seized he also ran into visa overstay problems.

When the case eventually did make it to court, three months later, he was fined - wait for it - 500 baht.

So Simon missed his flight, lost his job, lost his apartment, paid for additional accommodation and extra legal costs . . . and when he eventually made his appearance in court, he was fined 500 baht.

The idea of fast-tracking these kinds of cases on Phuket and in other holiday destinations around Thailand is a good one.

''Justice for all, but justice with speed'' is an ideal way to improve justice in Thailand and on Phuket. Justice, after all, never takes a holiday.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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justice for tourists with tuk tuk drivers & jet ski operators has been on vacation for a decade and more

Posted by slickmelb on May 12, 2013 04:25

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"One of the basic tenets of Thai law is that all people are equal before the law"

Please explain that to the people who drafted the laws on male female citizenship processing.

Posted by LivinLOS on May 12, 2013 10:50

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Good idea, but not gonna happen anytime soon if at all. Require a new law, a budget, buildings or rentals and of course the right people employed. There may also be eyebrows raised from Thais if they see that foreigners cases are expedited faster than theirs...

Posted by Sailor on May 12, 2013 11:48

Editor Comment:

As the article noted, tourists can also be people from other parts of Thailand. There is a general desire to speed the justice process for all.

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PW Editor,
(I do not know if this is always the same responder?) You have ridiculed my earlier statement about skin color in Thailand, in a personal and insulting manner, but I am convinced Mr Simons suffered especially for his race's dark hue.
In fact when local school was advertising for "Caucasian only," teacher and was asked, it was their, "reputation," given as reason. There are no dark skinned actors or presenters in popular culture either. I am puzzled how PW Ed dismisses so readily the prior comment re Kuhn Chutima's visa application denial?

Not sure about all people being equal here either. I have it on good authority foreigners, and those darker less wealthy underclasses are not equal to the Thai in matters of protection of and from the law.

Posted by E B 48 on May 12, 2013 12:31

Editor Comment:

Here you are, EB48, attempting to extend a spurious argument about one incident to a second, unrelated incident and then on to a broad general theory. You don't make it to First Base.

Khun Chutima's application was rejected by an American. As I responded last time: ''Americans, like Thais, come in all shades, shapes and sizes these days, EB48. To even suggest skin tone would be a factor among professional diplomats reflects poorly on the way you - and you alone - view the world.''

In the Burrowes case, ''Mr Simon'' was certainly unimpressed with the ineffective actions of his country's envoys. It's not possible to draw broad conclusions about anything from such unrelated events - no matter how keen you appear to do so.

You're well adrift from the article and its point.

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His crime was being black. Remember that in Thailand you're lower than a street dog if you're a black African. A group of Thai people in Bangkok openly laughed at and ridiculed a black friend of mine who said he was British. One actually said "You cannot be from England because you are African," and he told me that many times he received bad or no service in Bangkok due to his skin color.

Posted by Mike D. on May 12, 2013 14:47

Editor Comment:

His ''crime'' was to swear at the wrong time, in the presence of officials. What's shameful is not only his treatment in the following three months, but that British envoys allowed that treatment to happen. Ignorance about the world is not evidence of racism. Thailand is no different to Britain or France when it comes to discrimination over class or color.

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I don't want to get drawn into a racist debate but given the amount of African people both in Africa and around the world very few seem to come to Phuket. I asked several Thai ladies this over the years and they said they do not like them. Not that everyone comes for sex but I can only assume that as being a lighter colored Thai you are deemed to be higher class (hence all the whitening products in the pharmacy) they take skin color to the extreme and being very dark is low class. I guess this extends because poor farmers are darker than office workers.

Posted by Lost In Transaltion on May 12, 2013 16:09

Editor Comment:

The article is about the prospect of a tourist court for Phuket and other parts of Thaland. As most people eventually come to realise, the color of a person's skin doesn't matter a damn. Let's leave it at that.

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A fast track court would be a good idea but besides people should respect the Law. Knowing they could spend a long time awaiting trial is a deterrence. I think this should be for victims of crime, theft etc, not for people that cause crime.

Posted by Lost In Translation on May 12, 2013 17:50


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