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Monday, May 18, 2009

Thailand - Phuket - Aussie News - A Melbourne mum Annice Smoel facing five years jail

article from the Herald Sun

The information has been copied with with a link to the news articles. we have copied the details as it was shown at the time of publication.

Staff and wires
May 19, 2009 08:18am
UPDATE 1.30pm: 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.''

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