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Australian Women Arrested In Phuket Over Bar Mat

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Some quotes snipped for brevity purposes by poster

His property, his bar, only the owner can press charges as it's his property.

How did the police know it was stolen? she might have payed $60 for one earlier in the evening, that is what Steve sells them for remember..

Someone reported it, that's for sure.

It stinks, he could go down to the police that he pays anyway and said she purchased it, easy and cleared up.

He chose to drag her through the legal system, way to go Steve.

If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

It seems to me that Steve Woods is certainly aware of this and may well have attempted to clear up the mess with the BiB; after all he knows this kind of publicity is bad for his business and for tourism in general. Perhaps he did go to the police to try to clear the lady and they rebuffed him...with something uttered like "stay out of this Farang bar owner". But if Steve did this, he isn't about to allow his name to get plastered all over the media or he knows his days as a businessman in Phuket or anywhere else in Thailand will be numbered. I think it is unfair to accuse Mr. Woods without full possession of the facts in the case and what may have transpired behind the scenes. In the end, the lady will be sent home with a fine and a foul odor in her mouth of Thailand and its people, and perhaps newfound understanding that an Aussie bar in Phuket isn't exactly what it seems. Shame on that.

The moral of this story: travel to a country rife with corruption and nefarious characters that staff its national police and you'd best watch every little innocent-looking thing that you do while a 'guest' here. This includes how you respond to police and other authorities while in their custody. As we all are painfully aware, Thailand is not such a friendly country to tourists with its rampant overcharging, racist practices and incidents such as this one. And as a race they cannot handle loss of face in any small way, no matter how poorly it reflects on their beloved Kingdom. I enjoy living here, but have learned that there are irrefutable rules that must be followed. Caveat Emptor all.

Edited by Fore Man

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I'm not sure why the police needed to get involved anyway, unless they were acting on a complaint by the bar owners. This is a private matter between the bar and the customers concerned. The police certainly shouldn't have gone so far as making an arrest unless the bar had made a complaint to them about a theft taking place.

Chris

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Let the travel advisory's start flying. This is an outrageous injustice and Thailand will pay a heavy price in Tourist revenue for this.

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Assuming that there is not more to the story, I am seriously considering not visiting Thailand anymore. I do NOT condone theft, even petty theft, but this appears to be extremely harsh, especially for a country that has all sorts of hard-core criminals walking around free.

Another nail in the coffin that is Thailand tourism :)

Agreed, usually bar towels and mats are provided FREE of charge by the brewery for promotional purposes, so how can it be theft? The Thais really do know how to shoot themselves in the foot don't they?

Welcome to the land of smiles, not anymore it isn't. Possibly with visitor numbers being well down this bar owner is seeking a hefty compensation in exchange for this unfortunate mothers freedom, wouldn't surprise me at all.

Edited by fredKroket

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There seems to be alot more to this!! For sure it looks bad for Thailand, a small fine and it's done would have been the normal procedure---We don't know everything!!!!

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I am sure he has the BiB in his back pocket anyway.

Um, well either that or he has shut down his bar years ago. Since he hasn't... well you know how it is in Thailand, you have a bar, you pay.

Unfortunately, the world doesn't look kindly at Thai police loss of face.

In the USA they'd probably have tasered her (taser first, ask questions later), then read her her rights, gave her her call, and released her on bail. In Thailand, no bodily harm but you have to spend the night(s) in a holding cell and nobody speaks english. Different customs :)

There should be some guidelines in the Lonely Planet or something, what to do and what not to do when Police stops you. Because a lot of farangs freak out, demand being read their rights, or get abusive, particularly when they are from countries where you can get away with that, as in most civilized western countries. It's not that hard, all you have to do is smile, nod, and maybe hand over 200 baht. No need to let the situation get out of hand.

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Listening to some similar stories from Australians that have visited the bar before, I for one would not be visiting this bar. Definately another nail in the coffin of Thai tourism(thinking that not too many more nails needed) and definately the death of The Aussie Bar in Patong. I have lived in Thailand only for 18months(8 years in Asia) however I have learnt to keep my head down anf now located in Chiang Mai which is generally away from the main stream tourist area.

Good luck to Annice and her family, they can expect a very long and trying time ahead.

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UPDATE 1.30pm Aussie time:

A MELBOURNE woman facing Thai jail for stealing a bar mat has begged the Prime Minister to help her.

Montrose mother-of-four Annice Smoel says she's “scared, helpless and alone'' and is pleading for the Rudd government to intervene.

She has spent four days in a cramped Thai jail with three other women, described her holiday gone wrong as “totally unbelievable''.

Her husband says the Australian Government is offering little help.

Ms Smoel, 36, is facing up to five years jail in Thailand over the alleged theft of a bar mat from the popular Aussie Bar in Phuket.

Ms Smoel was drinking in the bar with friends when they apparently played a prank on her, putting a bar mat in her handbag.

But the owner of the Aussie Bar, Steve Wood, told 3AW 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.''

She was charged with a “night-time theft'' and imprisoned for four days.

Mr Wood said he had not pressed charges.

During a telephone link-up from Phuket with reporters, Ms Smoel broke down saying she just wanted to get home to her four young daughters aged six, eight, 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 17 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 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.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said all available consular assistance was being provided, but Mr Smoel says the action of the Australian government and consular authorities had been “nowhere near good enough''.

Ms Smoel's husband Darren said he felt like he was "chasing his tail" in Thailand.

"My journey with them started a week ago and I don’t feel it’s been that good to be honest, I don’t feel that there’s anyone out there looking for us that’s for sure," Mr Smoel told 3AW.

"We have stat decs (statutory declarations) stating what happened and their total innocence here and we really feel the Australian Government should be helping us."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed Ms Smoel was arrested on May 3 and charged with theft. A court hearing has been set for next Monday.

The spokeswoman said consular assistance had been provided to Ms Smoel.

"Consular officials from the Australian embassy, Bangkok, and from DFAT in Canberra have provided extensive consular assistance to the woman and her family,'' she said.

Ms Smoel said undercover police in the Aussie Bar stopped her on her way out of the bar. She was then arrested and spent four nights in a Thai jail cell.

“They came up to me and said ‘show us in the bag’. I had only just picked it up … had a quick look inside and saw there was something in it,” she told 3AW.

“I was nowhere near the handbag. One of the girls 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.''

"I have been treated unfairly and held here for something I didn't do."

Ms Smoel said she initially thought police were letting her go but when she got outside they arrested her and put her in a 4m by 4m jail cell.

Police have confiscated Ms Smoel’s passport and she has been stranded in Thailand for the past 17 days.

“I am doing ok, I am hanging in there. I don’t feel like I can really deal with what’s happened until I can get home and see my kids,” she said.

Ms Smoel was in Thailand with friends celebrating her mother’s 60th birthday.

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

Ms Smoel insisted she was innocent of the theft which was committed by a friend who 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.

Mr Rudd says consular officials in Thailand were assisting Ms Smoel.

“I've just been advised about this, the Foreign Minister and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are on top of this case,'' Mr Rudd told reporters in Melbourne.

“They are providing every level of consular assistance to the family and the individual concerned.''

Ms Smoel is required to report to authorities 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.''

-- news.com.au 2009-05-19

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There seems to be alot more to this!! For sure it looks bad for Thailand, a small fine and it's done would have been the normal procedure---We don't know everything!!!!

Yes but we can take an educated guess. Drunk sheila with place mat in her bag, confronted by possibly drunk undercover police. Loss of face ensues. Sheila goes in holding cell. Could have been much worse for her, if you ask me.

Who did what really doesn't matter. This is the Thai police. What is strange is that now by the light of the day, said woman has not been given her passport back and sent back to Australia. That's the real scandal, and that's what really hurts Thailand's reputation. If they are pissed off enough about her behavior, they should ban her from Thailand for a few years. But not letting her go back makes no sense. Big mistake by Thai police.

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In my days as a bar owner, if I didn't have at least one bar runner or an ashtray nicked every other day, I reckoned business was bad.

Why would undercover Thai police need to arrest a foreign tourist in a foreign owned bar unless they were on the "unofficial" payroll or for extorting money? :)

edit: sp

Edited by Maejo Man

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Assuming that there is not more to the story, I am seriously considering not visiting Thailand anymore. I do NOT condone theft, even petty theft, but this appears to be extremely harsh, especially for a country that has all sorts of hard-core criminals walking around free.

Another nail in the coffin that is Thailand tourism :)

I suspect she was drunk, was abusive to the police, etc. People often forget they are guests in this country, and should treat it and the people with utmost courtesy. I am amazed at the garbage attitude many farangs have toward Thailand. I think they should get out.

I love it here, when in need of help, I've never been turned away. The Thai's have always been honest to a fault, and courteous also. We just need to remember it is easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar.

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Its the ozzie bar on Bangla.. Steve.. Who I am sure doesnt want this publicity or hassle.. This is in the Thai polices hands.

Too late for that, i think he should go down the copshop and demand that he does not want to press charges.

In the end, it's his bar and the mat is his property.

Fellows, The bar owner is NOT pressing charges. Here is part of the article:

But the owner of the Aussie Bar, Steve Wood, told 3AW 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.''

She was charged with a “night-time theft'' and imprisoned for four days.

Mr Wood said he had not pressed charges.

Her disrespectful behavior is the reason she is being held. Aussies and others can boycott if they want, but I applaud the Thai Police for teaching this ........ a lesson. Behave yourself and you will be treated as an a welcome guest. :)

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"The story over here goes along the lines that BG placed the towel in her hand bag as a prank".

I truly wonder if this was an innocent bar prank or perhaps a well-planned and fully coordinated ripoff operation with selected off-duty policemen. It's happened elsewhere, and certainly is not out of the question. What was the behavior and demeanor of the Australian customers leading up to the incident? Loud, profane and surly or simply enjoying an evening on the town? Could be that the bar management had nothing to do with this but now its blown all out of proportion.

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Great undercover work by the police, the officers involved must surely be up for a promotion now. I for one will definitely be sleeping a lot better at night knowing that the police are finally cracking down on all the bar mat thieves.

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