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Phuket Opinion: Getting fat feeding the fishes

PHUKET: Olga Smirnova, the 53-year-old Russian woman arrested for feeding fish at Koh Racha Yai, who was subsequently held in police cells for two days until a good Samaritan posted the B100,000 bail for her release, must be deeply bitter about her ill treatment at the hands of Thai officials.

opinionRussianpolicecrimecorruptionenvironmentnatural-resourcesmarinetourism
By The Phuket News

Sunday 12 March 2017, 09:00AM


A tourist feeds fish at Koh Racha. Photo: Khanchit Klingklip

A tourist feeds fish at Koh Racha. Photo: Khanchit Klingklip

The paltry fine of B1,000 that was eventually handed down must have only served to further rub salt into her wounds. The fact that she was locked up and her passport confiscated for this misdemeanour is a travesty of justice and only serves to highlight the capricious nature of law enforcement in Thailand.

It seems likely that her arrest was a routine shakedown by police. It is also likely that many tourists have been arrested for feeding fish and threatened with jail and massive fines if they didn’t cough up a “fine” on the spot to make it all go away.

It appears that Mrs Smirnova either didn’t have the money, or refused to pay – forcing the police’s hand out of the cookie jar and dragging this case into the courts and therefore the media spotlight. As a result the case has highlighted the obtrusive use of Thailand’s legal system and the shabby treatment of foreigners unlucky enough to be caught up in it.

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It seems when a foreigner is charged, and the case is in the news, the government suddenly has to demonstrate it is doing everything by the book. This stands in stark contrast to the business-as-usual approach of letting murderously negligent drivers off with a slap on the wrist, transferring trigger-happy killer cops to another province without a hint of punishment and turning a blind eye to egregious violations of environmental laws by businesses which discharge untreated wastewater into the sea – the list goes on.

Let it be clear that The Phuket News does support the enforcement of environmental laws, and other laws, most of which if enforced fairly and uniformly would make Thailand a better place for both Thais and foreigners. But it is extremely difficult to respect authorities who use the law as a tool to intimidate and extort foreigners one moment and then ignore it at their convenience the next.

An argument could be made that such cases serve to set an example to others that a law exists and must be obeyed. However, if you wish to employ this argument with any credibility and fairness, then taking a stand on fish-feeding laws, and not negligent driving causing death, seems a strange place to draw a line in the sand.

 

 

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Sam hayman | 01 April 2017 - 05:53:30

"travesty of justice:, "routine shakedown by police".

Yep, arrested and put in local lockup for a having a few beers and riding the motorbike in a safely manner towards home and then stopped at a checkpoint which targets farung and lets Thai's pass by unchecked.

Then told i would have to wait 2 nights and 3 days in prison before going to court unless i paid B20,000 would s...

Jor12 | 13 March 2017 - 19:46:03

The arrest was by the Phuket Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) not Police. The DMCR were responding to concerned environmental groups on Phuket and their "demands". Following meetings, a number of measures have been implemented such as the installation of more mooring buoys to prevent tour boats from dropping anchors on reefs and to put increasing pressure on tour guides ...

LES | 13 March 2017 - 18:28:44

A well balanced article.For those new to the territory always remember we are the foreigner, we have money and they want it. No use shaking down a local Thai for serious offences, he/she in most cases have little money but a foreigner....well that's a different story.
We should all of course apply to to law and all be treated the same way, but it appears some laws are ludicrous and made up on...

BenPendejo | 13 March 2017 - 17:53:25

Sorry Eagle, but I have to disagree.  The negative commentary here is about corruption, and corruption is bad everywhere it occurs.  If the same thing was happening in my home country, I would denounce it and rag on it just as much, if not more.  Corruption in Thailand is so "in your face" that it is deserving of harsh criticism.  These corrupt police and public officials are nothing mor...

Concerned | 13 March 2017 - 07:35:51

Mother Nature has nothing against feeding fish with food which is biodegradable – but against littering polluting the sea with trash plastic motor oil glass bottles cigarette stumps snack wrappers etc from humans no matter tourist or locals for this ones they should impose such harsh fines...

Bjay | 12 March 2017 - 14:22:45

Well said Phuket News! It is well known amongst most expats just how corrupt the Police are!

Kurt | 12 March 2017 - 12:32:42

Bravo, Phuket news!  Again a nice piece of balanced Opinion.
So well explained.

It is true, we can feel that Thailand has 2 different enforcement 'legs'.
One leg is the 'leg' for thai, the other 'leg' is for foreigners.
The Thai pass through or just get a fine of 500 thb for running a bus of the road, killing and wounding people, even destroying a house.
The foreigne...

malczx7r | 12 March 2017 - 11:06:06

What a great article, couldn't agree more!!

BenPendejo | 12 March 2017 - 10:11:42

Great article PN.  Uncharacteristic of me, I have nothing to add.  I hope there are at least a few Thai officials that have some degree of integrity that read this and realize that something needs to be done about the absurd application of law.  But yeah...I know... it ain't gonna happen...ever.

simon01 | 12 March 2017 - 09:17:40

The key phrase here is "if enforced fairly and uniformly" which we all know will never happen. We all know the law only applies to foreigners as a means to get money. The same law does not apply to Thais. I agree that the law must be enforced but to only enforce it on a few is pointless. How do the people know what laws appy to what nationalalities. Thai peo...

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