‘We feel sorry for you,’ says prosecutor
From Andrew Drummond, Bangkok, April 27 2009
London martial arts expert, who was wrongly arrested on a false
passport charge, and then jailed after Embassy officials failed to
confirm his passport was real, was today told he was free to leave
Prosecutor Umaporn Siripong told Briton Simon Burrowes, 44,
from Wembley: ‘We feel sorry for you. It should not have come to this.
You should not have insulted our officers, but we understand why you
‘Officers were misinformed about your status as a British citizen. They
believed your passport to be false, but were later told it was not.’
Burrowes has been stranded in Thailand for three months after being jailed in January on a charge of having a false passport.
Today he was fined 500Thai baht, just under Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£10 at the provincial court
on the island of Phuket after admitting insulting Thai Immigration
He had let forth a flurry of expletives after he was detained by
Immigration police on suspicion of having a false passport, when he was
about to leave Thailand in January this year.
In his passport issued in Australia passport he was not wearing a shirt.
Immigration officials at Phuket told the local press he was naked.
He became furious after his flight, for which he had a non-refundable
ticket, left without him, even though he knew his passport was valid. He
had been in Thailand as a trainer to former British kick boxing
champion Matthew Nagle, studying Thai kick boxing.
His case was not helped, he said, when on a Friday, the morning of his
arrest, an official at the British Embassy in Bangkok contacted police
to tell them they had no record of his passport.
‘I asked the Embassy to double check, but they said it was a Friday and
they closed at midday and could do nothing until the following week. It
was not that important to them, but I was going to jail.’
As a result Burrowes was already in jail by the time Embassy officials
confirmed after ‘three working days’ that Burrowes’ passport was in fact
genuine. He subsequently lost his job and apartment in London, and
could not get out of jail until Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£2000 was sent from England for his
He had been in jail for 21 days when he was finally released.
Meanwhile he claimed he was beaten with a leather strap by a court
guard, and forced to sleep in an area just 52 centimetres by 126
centimetres, with over 100 prisoners, many of whom had skin infections
‘It took me three weeks to get out of Phuket jail where people are treated as sub-human,’ said Burrowes.
He added: ‘I do not want to have anything to do with the British
Embassy. They could have saved me from prison but they just could not be
bothered because it was a weekend.’
Burrowes, whose father is from Guyana added: ‘There was probably an
element of racism in my arrest because I am always being stopped. And I
still have issues with the behaviour of the immigration officials
towards me. But I cannot forgive the Embassy for what they did.’
Before leaving the court Burrowes thanked prosecutor Umaporn for her understanding.
Immigration officials unhappy with sentence
*When Simon Burrowes later went to the Immigration office in
Phuket to get a visa in his passport he was asked for 20,000 Thai baht
(about Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£400). As he did not have the cash he had to leave and can be
arrested and jailed anyway in Thailand. Immigration officials claimed
it was his fault he overstayed.
Immigration police have wide-ranging powers in Thailand and can deport without recourse to the courts.