Michelle Smith killers get life
PHUKET: The two Thai men who killed Australian travel agent Michelle Smith on June 20 were today sentenced to death.
Wednesday 8 August 2012, 03:35PM
But the two judges commuted the sentence for both men to life imprisonment because they had cooperated with the court and had admitted their guilt.
Surasak Suwannachot and Surin Tadtong were both charged with killing for personal gain, killing in association with one another, carrying weapons in public and conspiracy to commit robbery.
Both smiled at the sentences, plainly relieved not to have been sentenced to death.
After the judgement both were taken straight from the court to begin their sentences in the Phuket Provincial Prison.
Australian Honorary Consul Larry Cunningham, who was in court to observe the sentencing, said, “I think it’s clear it was finished very quickly. The work of the police was excellent in capturing the two criminals so quickly. I’m thinking about Michelle’s family right now – the children who do not have their mother any more, the husband who does not have his wife any more. So it’s very sad to think about that.
“I’m also thinking about Tammee Lynn, who was also stabbed during the attack. She is happy that everything has finished.
"This is the first time since I have been consul in Phuket that an Australian has been murdered in Phuket. I hope that this is the last time. But there are still a lot of problems in Phuket that make it unsafe for tourists. "
“There is in courtroom 7 now an Australian who had his face bashed by tuk-tuk drivers. We still have terrible problems with the extortion of money by the jetskis [operators] and we have the problems of drownings at the beaches.
“In many ways, while Michelle’s death was not common – there are more deaths on the streets of Australia, we know this, and Phuket is generally safe for tourists – this has been a wake-up call that we need to look after the tourists much more than we are doing now.
“On the first night of the Patong Safety Zone an Australian tourist had his face kicked in by tuk-tuk drivers, so there is still a long way to go.
“I would like to thank the police for acting so quickly in apprehending the criminals and for the justice done today.”
How long the two men will spend in jail will depend on their behaviour. In Thailand a life sentence means “until death” but well-behaved criminals may have years taken off their sentences in the annual Royal Amnesty. One informed source said that if the two behave impeccably, they may be out of jail in 20 to 25 years.
Surasak, in the back of the prison wagon, told reporters enigmatically, “I’m going to be out.”
Although Mrs Smith died in the attack, the duo failed to get her handbag. The court heard today that it contained a camera, A$550, B8,850 and two pairs of sunglasses.