Update: Phuket tourist jailing

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.

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“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

Phuket News

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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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