Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

Link to Nation newspaper. This news copy oddly appared on Letters Page

From Andrew Drummond, Bangkok

A British tourist who was falsely arrested in Thailand on a fake
passport charge, beaten, then jailed for three weeks, said today that he
would be happy to apologise to the Thai authorities, for 'airport

Simon Burrowes (right), 44, from Wembley, London, admitted that he swore
at Immigration authorities, in an airport rage incident at Phuket
airport last January, after his flight - for which he had a
non-refundable ticket -left without him.

He said he may have made derogatory references about immigration
officials and Thailand, but he hoped immigration police would understand
why he was angry and 'not detain me indefinitely'.

He said he was not the only person in the wrong.

He had already had to give up his flat in London because he cannot pay the rent.

Burrows, a martial arts expert had just been on a working holiday to
Phuket accompanying former British kick-Boxing champion Matthew Nagle
(below)as his trainer. Both were studying Muay Thai in Phuket.

However  on the day of departure when the two men went through the
Immigration channel, Simon, a black person, whose father was born in
Guyana, was detained and accused of having a false passport.

Burrowes complained that as the minutes passed by officials just stared
at his passport with a magnifying glass. He was annoyed, he said,
because he knew there was nothing wrong with his passport, he had a
completely clean record, and his flight was about to leave without him.

'The officials kept telling me. Don't worry your flight will not leave
without our permission, but it did.  I did lose my temper, but a lot of
people would have done under similar circumstances,' he said adding that
he was also humiliated.

He admitted grabbing his passport, storming back into the airport foyer
and demanding to see the head of immigration.  After being interrogated
for another two hours, he said he was charged with travelling under a
false passport and taken to the nearest police station.

He case was not helped by an official from the British Embassy who spoke
to Phuket Police the same Friday morning saying they could find no
record of his passport being issued.

'I begged Embassy officials to double check. I knew my passport was
legal. I had been using it for ten years. But the Embassy closed at
lunchtime on the Friday and all they could do was 'prioritise' the
matter the following week.  They knew I would have to go to jail.'

It took 'three working days' for the British Embassy to confirm
Burrowes' passport was in fact genuine. But when they finally told him
in Phuket prison 11 days after his arrested, they informed him that Thai
Immigration Police were going ahead with charges of insulting a
uniformed official.

Burrowes said he was beaten with a leather strap by a policeman as he
was led to court, and unable to raise bail because he had spent all his
holiday money.  As a result he was imprisoned in Phuket for three weeks,
sharing a space 126 x 52 cms with over 100 other prisoners, until money
could be sent to him.

His first trial date is set for April 27. In Thailand's antiquated legal system the case could last a year.

'Some wonderful kind hearted local people are looking after me and
people who have read about my case have been very kind too,' added
Burrowes. 'That's a blessing.'

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.'

Below is the link to the 'Help Simon' website


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