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Update: Phuket tourist jailing

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET / MELBOURNE (AAP): The Australian woman arrested in Phuket, Thailand for allegedly stealing a bar mat says she’s “scared, helpless and alone” and is pleading for the Australian government to intervene.

Annice Smoel, who spent four days in a cramped Thai jail with three other women, described her holiday gone wrong as “totally unbelievable”.

Ms Smoel, 36, from Montrose in Melbourne’s east, faces five years in jail, but insists she’s done nothing wrong.

During a telephone link-up from Phuket with reporters, she broke down saying she just wanted to get home to her four young daughters aged 6, 8, 11 and 12.

“They are terrified and scared. I’ve already missed so much, I really want to be a good mum,” she said.

Asked how she felt, she said “just scared, helpless, alone”.

In the 14 days since her arrest for taking the bar mat from the Aussie Bar in Phuket where she was celebrating her mother’s 60th birthday, she has missed one daughter’s birthday, another’s appendix operation and Mother’s Day.

In a plea to the government, she said: “You’ve got to help me, I have not done anything wrong, this is a crock.”

Her husband Darren has flown back to Phuket to be by his wife’s side.

“This is a complete joke – the Thai authorities have no compassion and no respect for Western women or the wrongly accused, it’s just a joke,” he said.

Despite Prime Minister Kevin Rudd saying that all available consular assistance is being provided, Mr Smoel says the action of the Australian government and consulate authorities had been “nowhere near good enough”.

The family had even tried offering money to Thai authorities but that was refused.

The owner of the Aussie Bar, Steve Wood, told Fairfax Radio Network that he believed Ms Smoel had been abusive toward the undercover police who had stopped her in the bar.

“When they talked to her all they wanted to do was chastise her, and they usually let you go, but she did a runner on them… the police had to chase her down the beach,” Mr Wood said.

“When they took her back to the police station, she continued to abuse everyone at the police station including the chief of police and I think this is what the problem is.

“It’s more of an attitude problem than a crime problem.”

Local newspaper Phuket Gazette reporters are with Steve Wood at the Aussie Bar as this report is filed. More details on the case will be reported in the Gazette Online this evening.

Ms Smoel has been charged with “night-time theft” and imprisoned for four days. Thailand makes a distinction between daytime and nighttime thefts, with the latter seen as more serious under Thai law.

Bar Owner Mr Wood has not pressed charges.

Ms Smoel insisted she was innocent of the theft which was committed by a friend, as a prank. She confessed to the police but was told to go away.

“I have been treated unfairly and held here for something I didn’t do,” she told Fairfax News Radio.

“They know I didn’t do it; they have video evidence and one of the girls who was involved went down to the police on Sunday morning and confessed to the crime and apologised – and they told her to go away. They didn’t care.”

Police confiscated Ms Smoel’s passport.

Ms Smoel is required to report to local authorities in Phuket every two weeks as a condition of bail and it is expected to be 14 weeks before her case is heard in court.

Her lawyer Bernard Murphy says she has been told she could face two to five years in jail if found guilty of “night-time theft.”

— By Katie Bradford for APP Australia

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

Phuket

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket

Maya Taylor

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4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | The Thaiger
Mai Khao beach in north Phuket. PHOTO: Booking.com

Phuket officials are setting aside around 4 billion baht to transform medical tourism in the southern province of Phuket, by developing a state-of-the-art treatment hub in the north of the island. The Bangkok Post reports that the Treasury department is planning to give the Public Health Ministry permission to use 141 rai of government land in the sub-district of Mai Khao, close to Phuket International Airport. It’s not the first time the proposal has come to light.

The concept is gathering support as Phuket battles to diversify its attraction beyond a tropical holiday island.

The aim is to develop Phuket as a world-class health and wellness destination, with facilities that will attract medical tourists from all over the world, as well as providing a high standard of treatment to the local population. It’s understood the facility will provide a full range of health services, including long-term care, and hospice and rehabilitation services.

The island already has a well-developed medical tourism market, but has been based around local hospitals and clinics linking up with foreign marketing companies in the past. “The International Medical and Public Health Service” has been conceived to create more long term financial security and diversification, and value-added tourism in Phuket, as the island has taken a heavy financial hit over the past 7 months.

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Phuket Andaman News

The plan was first suggested in 2017, by then governor, Noraphat Plodthong and confirmed by the director of Phuket’s Vachira Hospital, Dr. Chalermpong Sukontapol, in July. At that stage, the estimated budget was 3-4 billion baht. The director-general of the Treasury department, Yuthana Yimkarun, says the plot is being offered to the Health Ministry for free. The land is thought be worth around 1 billion baht.

Yuthana says the ministry will manage investment, with approximately 2 billion baht required for the first stage of the project. Construction of the facility is expected to be completed over 2 years.

Meanwhile, it’s understood that unused government land that is currently managed by various government agencies may be moved under the remit of central government, with a view to increasing its worth. According to the Bangkok Post report, just 4% of government land is directly managed by the Treasury. The other 96% is controlled by various government agencies. Yuthana says the plan is to increase the percentage of state-owned land under the Treasury’s management to 10% within 2 years.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

“Open the borders, safely”, Bill Heinecke, Minor International interview – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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“Open the borders, safely”, Bill Heinecke, Minor International interview – VIDEO | The Thaiger

Bill Heinecke speaks to Bill Barnett. The two heavy-hitters of Thailand’s hotel and hospitality sector, mull over the current Covid situation and the reopening of Thailand’s borders to some form of tourism. Bill Heinecke is the Chairman and Founder of Minor International.

Bill Barnett is the Managing Director of c9hotelworks.com

Now the Thai government has approved the special long-term tourist visa scheme (STV), hoteliers are remaining skeptical about reopening due to the lack of clarity in the recent announcement, which will reportedly take effect next month. The president of the Thai Hotels Association’s southern chapter says more hoteliers will consider reopening if the government gives further information about the plan in terms of prospective markets, arrival dates, origin countries, and flights.

Such details would allow hotels to prepare themselves ahead of time to offer services as alternative state quarantine premises as at least 60 hotels in Phuket are awaiting approval to operate such facilities.

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Bangkok

Now they’re coming… Special Tourist Visa flight set for Tuesday – Tourism and Sports Minister

Caitlin Ashworth

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Now they’re coming… Special Tourist Visa flight set for Tuesday – Tourism and Sports Minister | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Suhyeon Choi

After much confusion and a few apparent ‘misunderstandings’, Chinese tourists on the Special Tourist Visa will actually arrive on October 20 and 26. At least that’s what Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn says, according to the Bangkok Post. The first group is said to arrive 4 days from now in Bangkok (if they actually applied for the visa this time).

Reports circulated for weeks about a flight of 120 to 150 tourists set to arrive in Phuket on October 8 from Guangzhou, China. An announcement was made shortly after the flight was due to arrive with Tourism Authority Governor Yuthasak Supasorn saying “administrative issues” had caused the delay.

It was later reported that no one from Guangzhou had actually applied for the visa and it was all just a misunderstanding after the Tourism Authority of Thailand reportedly passed off a list of those “interested” in the visa as actual applications.

This time, the Post is reporting the first group of 120 tourists from Guangzhou will arrive at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on Tuesday. Another group of 120 tourists, also from Guangzhou, will arrive on October 26, but the Post didn’t say where that flight will land.

It’s apparently the same group that was planned to arrive in Phuket on October 8, but the minister claims the trip was postponed due to the Vegetarian Festival which is planned to run until October 25. Both the Phuket governor and National Security Council secretary general had claimed the festival was the reason for the delayed flight and was intended to ease fears of Covid-19 for the festival-goers coming in from the rest of Thailand.

Even though the new long stay tourist visa is good for 90 days, and can be renewed twice, the tourists will only stay in the country for 30 days, with 14 of those days in quarantine. Phiphat says the Tourism Authority of Thailand will find activities to keep the tourists occupied while in quarantine.

The visitors will be the first international tourists after a 6 month ban to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Thai officials have been discussing plans for months about how to safely reopen borders to revive the country’s economy which is heavily driven by the tourism industry. Officals are now talking about cutting down the mandatory time for quarantine from 14 days to 7 days to help entice people to visit.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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