Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

From Andrew Drummond, Bangkok

Link to Evening Standard story

Link to Guardian story

Link to Sydney Morning Herald story

Link to Daily Mail story

Link to Phuketwan

London martial arts expert on holiday in Thailand to study Thai kicking
boxing claims he was beaten, shackled and imprisoned after a British
Embassy official told local immigration police that they could not find a
record of his passport.

the passport was forged Thai police charged 44-yr-old Simon Burrowes
with travelling on false papers , and he was left languishing in a
squalid jail cell with 120 other prisoners packed like sardines.

at the British Embassy in Bangkok actually found the passport record
the following week, claiming that they had to contact the office in
Melbourne, Australia, where it was issued.

although they managed to get the initial charge dropped, Burrowes was
left to languish in the jail for a total of 21 days after they pressed
an additional charge of insulting immigration officers.

Now Burrowes has lost his flat in the U.K. and is penniless in Thailand awaiting local justice which could take over a year.  He
lost his temper when his flight, for which he had a non-refundable
ticket, took off without him and allegedly called Immigration officers
'f**king idiots'.

H e claims: 'The Embassy had more than 24 hours to establish my passport was real. But they couldn't. In this day and age  I find that difficult to believe.'

He says he was unaware of the new charge until Embassy officials told him. 'It does not seem right,' he said.

broke his silence for the first time today, over the incident which has
been buzzing on expat internet forums in Thailand.  He
had just been able to pay bail and had been released from jail on the
holiday island where he had to sleep in an area just 126 centimetres by
52 cms.

He said he had been on a working holiday as trainer to former British Kick-Boxing champion Michael Nagle.  

was arrested on a Friday January 30 while getting my flight back to
Britain. Thai Immigration officials said they were suspicious of my
passport. When they checked with the British Embassy an official told
them they could find no record of my passport.

'When the phone was passed to me the Embassy official  must have known I was British. I told them the passport was legal and I had been using it for nine years.  The official said he could not find any record of it.  The number was not on their computers.  I begged him to double check. 

he refused. He said the Embassy closed at Friday midday for their
weekly long week-end. And they could not reach the right people.  They said they would prioritise the matter the following week.

After I handed back the phone 'The Thai policeman turned to me and said 'So which country do you want to be deported to!'  and I was sent to jail.  But officials had all day in London to check me out.  I cannot believe they could not have done it. I cannot believe my records are not there.'

'From that moment on I was treated as someone less than human.  I was handcuffed to another Thai and sent to court.  As I was being led into the court I was beaten by an official with a leather strap.

they sent me to jail because I did not have the £2,000 they demanded
for bail. In jail the only people treated worse than me were the Burmese
who were made to do call the cleaning.'

Burrowes, who says he has 'absolutely no criminal convictions',  was
visited in prison by the local consular representative the following
Tuesday, but it was not until another week passed that Embassy officials
told him they had checked and verified that his passport was genuine.

'That's when I heard they were pressing a charge of insulting Thai official. But they could do little else to help me further'.

One of the officials said:  'I can empathise with your self-righteousness' and that it was one of the one in a thousand glitch cases. '

freely admit that he used the words 'f**king' and 'idiot' in front of
immigration officials when his flight, for which his ticket was non
refundable, left without him.

had kept me waiting for an hour studying my passport with a magnifying
glass. I told them if they did not hurry I would miss my flight. They
told me the flight could not leave without their permission.  But it did.

was angry. I grabbed my passport and walked out of the Immigration
area, saying 'I am a British citizen who has come to your country to
spend my money.  Don't treat me like a 'f**king idiot' .

then went to the Information Counter and demanded to speak to the Chief
of Police or Head of Immigration. That's when his problems began.

Thai Immigration police say it was they who were called 'f**cking idiots'.  His
case for insulting an immigration official could take a year, longer if
he pleads not guilty. Courts sit only one day a month and his first
hearing is not until April 27th. 

people in Phuket have been wonderful. Friends are paying for my bedsit.
And local Thais have given me free gym membership. But I have lost my
flat in Wembley because I cannot pay the rent now.

understand I knew little about Thai culture. But surely they must know
try to understand our culture too. The words I said would spring to many
people's minds in the same situation'.

A British Embassy spokesman said: ' The
validity of Mr Burrowes passport was resolved within three working
days. We proceeded to check the validity of the passport immediately
upon being informed by the police of his arrest on the Friday.

no point did the embassy tell anyone involved that the passport was
false. The diplomatic mission that issued the passport replied to
confirm the passport's validity the following Tuesday. We then informed
the police and they dropped that charge. The subsequent period of
detention and court proceedings relate to a different charge'. 

 Although a born and bred Brit, Simon Burrowes parents came originally from Guyana.



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