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Australian Govt rejects Bamford blast over Phuket rape claim

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Australian Govt rejects Bamford blast over Phuket rape claim | The Thaiger

PHUKET: The Australian Government has flatly rejected allegations by one of their own citizens, Stevie Bamford, who went on Australian national television and accused embassy officials of telling her to lie about her alleged sexual assault ordeal on Phuket.

Ms Bamford, 21, alleged on the prime-time television show Today Tonight that Australian consular officials told her to confess to lying to police about being raped by three men in a tuk-tuk in Patong on June 10 – so she would be able to “walk away” from the incident.

However, in an email to the Gazette, a spokesperson for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) stated that Australian consular officials at no time gave legal advice to Ms Bamford, or advised her to sign any statement.

Consular officials urged her repeatedly to engage a lawyer to advise her on legal proceedings, said the email.

“Consular officials from Canberra, Bangkok and Phuket provided extensive consular assistance to Ms Bamford, her boyfriend, her mother (while in Phuket) and her father (who remained in Australia) during the entire period from the initial rape investigation, her arrest, the court hearing, the lead-up to detention, detention and deportation from Thailand.

“Officials accompanied Ms Bamford to the police station during the initial investigation of her claims. A female Consul from the Embassy in Bangkok subsequently flew to Phuket to provide Ms Bamford additional assistance and to ensure that her rape allegations were taken seriously by police and that she received the appropriate medical attention.

“The Consul was present when Phuket police showed CCTV footage from the night of the alleged rape. During her subsequent arrest, consular officials provided extensive assistance.”

During her exclusive interview, billed as “Terror in Thailand” and introduced as “a chilling story of how an overseas holiday can go horribly wrong”, Ms Bamford tells Laura Sparkes, a senior Sydney-based reporter for the program, how she was held down and sexually assaulted.

Although the interview and footage shown was mostly produced in a way to support Ms Bamford recollection of events, and accuse the Australian authorities of encouraging a cover-up of a horrific encounter, it also questioned the veracity of those claims.

“Stevie Bamford is either a young woman denied justice in the most horrific way, or she’s a very convincing liar,” narrated interviewer Ms Sparkes.

During the interview, Ms Bamford explained that she was out enjoining the Patong nightlife with her boyfriend Tim Michael. “Somehow we lost each other in a mass of people,” she said.

However, in her previous statement to police when reporting the attack, Ms Bamford said that she and her boyfriend had argued, and he had stormed back to the hotel alone.

During the initial investigation by Patong Police, the motorbike taxi driver who took Ms Bamford back to the hotel said that he had escorted her to her room so she could get money to pay him. While she got the money, he noticed that broken items were scattered around the room.

In her narrative of events on the night of June 10, Today Tonight interviewer Ms Sparkes said, “Unable to contact Tim, drunk, disorientated and a little scared, Stevie says she walked toward the beach looking for a tuk-tuk taxi ride home. She then claims she was grabbed.”

Ms Bamford described being held by three men in what she believed to be a tuk-tuk. “It was a bit of a blur to me… I remember getting pushed down to the floor.”

When asked by Ms Sparkes where this occurred, Ms Bamford said, “I remember there was a roof above my head so I thought… just assumed it was a tuk-tuk… there were three men at the time… someone was holding my arms back, above my head and someone started taking my clothes off me and trying to sexually assault me.”

While Ms Bamford is telling Ms Sparkes of her ordeal, images are shown of bruising to Ms Bamford’s legs and small scratches to her back.

In the exclusive interview, Ms Bamford also accused Patong Hospital of not providing her with the results of a rape test.

While showing receipts from the hospital for tests that included “jabs”, “medicines” and a pregnancy test, Ms Bamford alleged that hospital staff denied showing her the rape test results, claiming that she had never received treatment at the facility.

Both Ms Bamford and her boyfriend reiterated that they were put in a position where Ms Bamford had no alternative other than to sign a confession saying that she had fabricated the whole rape story and lied to police.

It was either sign the confession or be jailed for more than three years for being found guilty of lying to police, Ms Bamford said.

Ms Sparks asked directly: “So the Australian Embassy were telling you to lie?”

To which Ms Bamford replied: “Yes, basically. They said ‘It’s for your best interests’.”

After Ms Bamford was sentenced to 15 days’ detention, her father, former Australian international rugby league player Peter Tunks, said he was phoned by an Australian Foreign Affairs official, who apologized for the sentence his daughter was given.

“She said that it was virtually unheard of in this kind of plea-bargaining case,” Mr Tunks said.

The bewildered father told Ms Sparkes that he was told that “all his daughter had to do was drop the charges, say she made it up and she’d get a slap on the wrist and get out”.

Although Mr Tunks did not attribute that statement to anyone in particular, it came right after Ms Sparkes had accused the DFAT of “hiding behind off-the-record chats and emails”.

Regardless, the DFAT are adamant that Australian consular officials in Thailand did not tell Mr Tunks that his daughter should lie and that he first time a consular official in Thailand spoke to Mr Tunks was after Ms Bamford had confessed, been convicted and sentenced.

In DFAT’s email to the Gazette, the spokesperson wrote: “At no stage did consular officials in Canberra tell Ms Bamford’s father (Mr Peter Tunks) that it was ‘in Stevie’s best interests to lie’ by signing a statement. Canberra consular officials’ first contact with Mr Tunks was on the evening of 19 June, 4 days after her court hearing at which she was sentenced to 15 days’ detention.

“The signing of a statement was not discussed during this, or subsequent conversations between Mr Tunks and consular staff. Consular staff underlined that DFAT was not able to provide legal advice and encouraged Mr Tunks to address legal aspects of her case with a lawyer.

“Subsequent contacts between Mr Tunks and consular staff took place on 20 June, 21 June, 22 June, 25 June, 26 June, 28 June, 3 July, 4 July, 6 July, 13 July and 18 July. DFAT records show that at no time was the signing of documents by Ms Bamford discussed in these conversations.”

In the Today Tonight program, Ms Bamford went on to describe the “prison cell” where she spent her 15-day detention. “It was just a small cell. You just slept on little disgusting mattress on the floor [which] had like blood and stuff all over it,” she said.

However, Ms Bamford was detained at the Bang Jo dentition facility in Cherng Tal

— Mark Dee

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Patong

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger

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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | The Thaiger

by Sophie Deviller

Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island are being forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as Thailand’s tourism chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year, after Bangkok, and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, the numbers for January-September were down almost 20% year on year.

Claude de Crissey, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the Patong Beach area, says Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

“That was not the case this year,” he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50%.

The problem is not only in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and on Koh Samui.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen about 10% against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers in July 2018 also scared some off.

“We are worried,” said an industry insider, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs. Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

“In terms of business, it’s not good,” said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

“Because … we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops.”

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn said he remained “optimistic.”

“We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors.”

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year’s total of 35.6 million.

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25% on-year in the first seven months. But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

“I’ve never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment,” said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn’t the untouched vacation paradise it once was. “Now it’s not so new … and it’s not cheap,” he said.

SOURCE: AFP

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

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Events

The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners

The Thaiger

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The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners | The Thaiger

4,000 runners from Thailand and overseas took part in the 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle Fun Run and Half Marathon 2019 yesterday, starting from the Phuket Gateway.

The event is expected to raise 700,000 baht for the charity, now in its 15th year. The money raised goes towards to The Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, which is committed to protecting the marine and coastal environment, and ecosystems, for the wellbeing of sea turtles that nest in the Mai Khao beach and the surrounding areas.

The annual race also provides funds for thePhuket Marine Biological Centre’s Injured Turtle Rehabilitation Program and The Third NavalArea Command’s Turtle Hatchery Program.

The race was in its 15th year and runners of all ages and abilities took part in the race. The morning’s racing was divided into five categories – the 21.1km half marathon, 10.5km mini- marathon, 5km fun run and 3k family run and VIP participants for all the races. The route of 21.1 kilometre race took runners northwest along the Haad Sai Kaew beach towards Thao Thepkasattri bridge, past the rural road No. 3006, run along the road – Pi Lai viewpoint area returned back along the T. Baan Tha Nun to the iconic Sarasin bridge before finished the half marathon in the Phuket Gateway.

For Mini Marathon 10.5 km – Over all category, Mr. Chinnawat Changlek clocked 39 minutes and 40 seconds to clinch victory in the male half marathon, winning prize money and a trophy with the signature of Phuket’s Governor. The winner in the female mini marathon was Surakarn Wanna with a time of 47 minutes and 47 seconds.

Winners also received a prize gift voucher as well as a medal. Congratulations to all participants.

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