Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

and other consular stories such as
'Pattaya Brits' were here 400 years ago.
Consular official flogged to death
From ANDREW DRUMMOND, Bangkok, April 19 2012

A Royal Marine swindled out of £30,000 by a British businessman in Thailand while he was serving in Middle East hotspots says he has been snubbed by British consular officials whom, he claims, refused to endorse his complaint.

Toby Brockhurst, 28, who served with 45 Commando aboard HMS Bulwark in the Straits of Hormuz and also helped evacuate British citizens from Lebanon, says he was admonished by astonished consular officials in the beach resort of Pattaya after he turned up at the office to have his signature witnessed….for a fee of £20.

Consular officials refused he said but offered him an alternative service for £55.75 (2,750 Thai baht) Said Toby: “When I handed the statement to the lady behind the counter, she read it and told me that she was not happy to sign it as it was not set out in a format that she had seen before. She rang the Embassy in Bangkok to ask for their advice.

“I could not hear what she said during this call. When she came back to me she said that the statement was not in the correct format as usually it comes in a pack of pages and pages with detailed instruction from the lawyer on what is to be done.”

PMTV video of the Consular office in Pattaya

The British Embassy replied: “It seems that Mr. Brockhurst’s request was not in fact refused. He was given a number of options of the best way to proceed after which Mr. Brockhurst decided to speak with his lawyer again.
"It may be that there has been some misunderstanding, but our Consular Sections in either Bangkok or Pattaya would be very pleased to offer further advice or assistance to Mr. Brockhurst if needed.”
This has left Toby Brockhurst puzzled and delayed an investigation into the Harlequin-TPME property scams highlighted on this site.
How many other options can there be to having a signature witnessed?
“That made for interesting reading,” said Toby when we put the Embassy reply to him.
“I was not given a number of options as she said. I was told that the only other option available to me there and then was to fill out a form confirming I am who I say I am. As I did not want to pay 2750 baht for a form I did not need I told them that I would consult with Lawyer. They basically blamed my lawyer for why the document could not be signed. I am meeting with a Notary Lawyer at 4pm today in Barnstaple who will notarise the document for me. When I spoke with him on the phone yesterday I asked him if he would like to see the statement beforehand, and he said that the layout and content of the statement is not his concern. This is completely at odds with the attitude of the Consulate.”

Toby’s statement was a straightforward one page report giving the basic details of how he had paid Richard Haughton 1.5m plus Thai baht for his Pattaya home, and had unsuccessfully demanded his money back when the home was not built. There was nothing complicated about the statement.

He is now back in the U.K. having failed to make a statement for Thai government agencies to act on and as a result delayed their investigation.
This is of course not a newspaper story, and has not been sent to any newspapers, but it's true and is an indication of what a newspaper could publish. The bad news is that unless his statement is witnessed by the FCO its still a no-go. That's put his costs up ten fold.
But most of all it’s an indication how the Embassy and Consulate have changed over time. Let’s go back a few years. No, let’s go back hundreds of years.
There was a time when the British were all powerful in Thailand. British citizens could do no wrong. British captains skippered the Thai navy and one British Captain, Samuel White, ran the King’s Navy at the time of King Narai and James II of the nascent United Kingdom. Mind you Thailand had a Greek foreign minister.

Actually Sam White was a bit of a rogue Admiral and used the King of Thailand’s ships to terrorise trade in the Indian Ocean attacking ships of the British East India Company. Britain and Thailand went to war and James II sent the navy in to deal with White, who was defeated but still managed to slip back to the UK with some of his stash.
But according to M.L. Manich Jumsai in ‘A History of Thai-Anglo Relations’ it was the signing of the Bowring Treaty in 1855 which really elevated the British status in Thailand.

(This picture always makes me laugh, despite the desperate situation. Embassy Desk - 2004 Tsunamu -Phuket)

Britain set up its own courts in Thailand. If British citizens were arrested the matter had to go to a Consular Court. Also protected were Thai ‘mia noi’s’ of British citizens. Boy, would this go down well in Pattaya today. The British Embassy could order reparations if you were to be overcharged in a go-go bar!

The morals of the English were very low!

And yes, wait for it, hundreds of years ago there were also the equivalent of today’s Pattaya Brits. But they were known as the Pattani Brits, because Britain had a trading station down there. These guys were apparently known for their ‘lewdness, unnamed diseases (venereal) drunkenness and begetting bastard children. The morals of the English were very low,” writes M.L. Manich Jumsai, but I guess they must have had some Thai collaborators.
But back to Britain’s status in Thailand after the Bowring Treaty. “One could find British subjects everywhere who came under British law and to whom no complaint could be had against without the consent of the consul nor without his judgment as chief of the local tribunal," wrote M.L. Manich Jumsai.
"Very soon the authorities could not arrest them or have them punished for any crime nor ask to pay any taxes according to the Thai laws."
Occasionally the British sent a gunboat up the Chao Phya River on a 'courtesy' visit.
However there was one exception:


Under the reign of King Mongkut, who was the first real anglophile monarch, it seems one British citizen thought it would be okay to circumvent strict Thai property laws, which have not changed much to this day.
This chap called Puddicombe bought land through one of his lawyers, leased it back, and then registered it with the British Consulate. The lease was stamped by the then British Consul, a chap called Gingell. The King hit the roof. But he did not go for Gingell or Puddicombe but a Thai secretary at the British Consulate who had allowed the land to be registered.
The official, Kru Seng was ‘given 99 floggings with rattan strokes..and died a few days later.”

One could almost substiture Romans for Briton if this Monty Python sketch related to Siam

Still M.L. Manich Jumsai concludes English influence spurred the Siamese government to re-organise its administrative system, police, courts of justice, postal system, navy, trade, survey department, communications and the railways of Thailand.
M.L. Manich Jumsai did not like the French and credits the British for stopping France making territorial gains into Siam. He did a lot of research in Thailand, England and France, and was horrified to discover reading French historical documents that the authorities there had ‘cast Thais on the side of deceits, cowardice, dishonesty, aggressiveness and all forms of untrustworthy actions.”
The author was relatively kind to the Brits and his worst insults were that some were regarded as ‘ arrogant, stuck-up, and priggish’, which sort of rings a few bells. Two of those three words were actually used when Thai reporters were asked to comment on the Embassy at a press event held there a few years ago. It did tickle me at the time.
Now Thai children will not read any of this in their history books. They are taught that successive Kings diplomatically played the super powers off against each other. Not true, says the author. Britain had no territorial interests. It just wanted to trade, and told the French to get lost.

So that brings us back to the present day. Well almost. My knowledge of the British Embassy dates back about 25 years. And 25 years ago things were much more relaxed. I could meet the Deputy Head of Mission in the Safari Club in Patpong, as well as other dips.
A senior Australian diplomat regularly attended the ‘Kangaroo Club’ along the same road which was probably why he exclaimed after travelling with Princess Anne to Burma, and Laos as her blood donor: ‘Streuth! God knows why she should want my blood.”
I could also ring up dips and get the SP on most things.
After filming Charles and Di’s visit to Thailand for a Channel 4 Media Show section I presented called ‘The Rat Pack’ I took a Thai girlfriend back to the U.K.. She did not have to go for an interview. I did not have to prove income. It was just a quick stamp in her passport.
Today things have changed drastically. Mass tourism brought that on. The consular section filled up with angry Brits bringing their bar girls home outnumbering the foreign correspondents 100-1.
Bullet proof glass had to be put up at the interview points. With international terrorism Britain, a former friend to the Arab world, became its second major enemy. Up went the railings, and car impeders. The Embassy a lavish piece of green in the centre of Bangkok became a fortress.
Possibly the last film on the British Embassy before all this went down was ‘True Brit’ by the BBC. The Embassy loved it…although I do not think they appreciated the irony. There were scenes of Secretaries playing tennis on the Embassy courts, and flippity officials talking about their maids, and the consular section visiting two girls in prison who had been caught with 30 kilos of heroin, who looked like they have been availed of the services of the BBC wardrobe department with their gloss lipstick etc.
Soon the British Embassy, or rather the Consular Department became part of U.K. Ltd a self-supporting company which raised all the charges for its consular services to pay their own way.
In came new rules dictating what officials do to help British subjects. There were even rules preventing over-service and of course relations with the press and the media took further dives. I probably helped.
I came out of London having worked previously for the News of the World, Daily Mail, Evening Standard, and Observer. I eventually took over the ‘Times’ position here, but my background right across the Street would have been of concern to officials.

The Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday for instance do not like the British civil service and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office I am more than guessing is top of their hate list. This mainly is because of the secrecy of the FCO and it’s built in protectionism of the status quo. Government may come and go, but the FCO was seen as untouchable.

(Above: Another picture which tickles me is the one above showing a former Ambassador with the major players in the gay commercial sex trade in Pattaya - the men on the far left and far right of the picture are not)

The Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday of course got its fair share of Embassy cock-up stories – and Embassies throughout the world pulled up their portcullises. Embassy officials wondering ‘Why us?’ did not understand the answer ‘Well it was just your turn.’ They've never watched 'The News'.

But what tickles me most of all is how the US Ambassador was persuaded to pose umpteen times with American publisher Drew Noyes - currently on extortion charges - showing that our transatlantic cousins do everything in a bigger way

Having said that most perhaps even all staff at the Embassy are dedicated to their jobs, even the 64,000 baht a month Climate Change Officer. They want to help but its just those endless rules which take a lot away from personal decision making.
Last year for instance there was a small furor when Richard Hewitt, was found naked, emaciated and chained to the bars of a police station cell in Pattaya. Howard Miller the then Pattaya consular official took the fall for that. But actually he was probably only doing what the system allowed him to do. Hewitt was a problem Brit. He was a drug user, and serious Pattaya Addict. He had been in trouble before.

But there was no doubt he had to be taken out of that station into a mental hospital before he literally wasted away, or someone aided his own demise. In stepped British citizen Tracy Cosgrave who got him cleaned up and into a hospital. Why? Well, all this costs money and requires a decision. No decision was made. The system failed and it would not have been fair to ask the local consular officer to put his own money...hence these type of situations.
Just don't believe all that stuff written on the inside page of your passport. It was written long before UK Ltd came into being, probably during the reign of James II. And bear in mind that althought the FCO says it is spending more than ever before on consular services don't expect it to come your way.
In short we are living in 2012. It’s not the same. 'Fings ain't what they used to be' and we have to get used to it. It’s never going to be the same again. So here ‘s a few tips.

1. Every service the Embassy provides is on their website– check it out. Print out the relevant page. Take it to the consular section. Hands in front in a begging pose, eyes wide open and say ‘Please’ pointing to the service you want and the cost stated. They will appreciate that you have done your homework.
2. I cannot see any repeal of the land ownership act and schoolbooks down the trousers will not help in a rattan type situation.
3. If falsely arrested for overtaking in the overtaking lane do not threaten to send in the gunboats.
4. When ringing out of hours and you are advised ‘Call this number in only a life or death situation do not call the number and say: ‘This is a f…g life or death situation. Your life or death!’ This will result in all your dealings with the Embassy over the next 20 years being beset with problems of incomplete paperwork, wrongly smirking for a passport photo type situation etc.
5. The Consular section has a hit list. Absent from it appear to be drug runners on the run, boiler room operators, and scamming property developers. These may appear to to have preferential status. Do not complain. Live with it.

6. When bringing your fiancĂ©e to the Embassy please ensure that she is properly dressed and keeps her legs crossed in the waiting room. This is nothing to do with her getting a visa. This is to save her from FCO stereotypes such as played by John Lithgow in ‘A Good Man in Africa’.
PS. The term 'Pattaya Brit' is a term only and nothing else should be inferred. It is not intended to cause offence to any of the many well repected British businessmen currently residing on the East Seaboard. (Do you think that's enuf ed?)


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