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Practical tips for dealing with 'legal encounters' in Phuket – Part 2

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In the last issue, I wrote about the kind of incidents that visitors to this great Kingdom can encounter and provided some tips about overcoming or mitigating issues such as: road traffic accidents, being asked and legally obliged to carry and present identification at all times, and avoiding losing your temper and violating very strict laws relating to insults.

Amidst a backdrop of foreigners visiting other countries and falling foul of laws they don’t seem to have brushed up on, such as the Australian nationals who were recently arrested for displaying the Malaysian national flag on their underwear at a Formula 1 event, it seems appropriate to consider that every country has its own set of laws, rules and regulations. It isn’t a country’s obligation to inform every visitor what they should and should not do. In the age of ‘millenialism’ it seems there is a use of information gathering devices, but not enough use of the information available on them to ensure cultural sensitivities and legal obligations are properly dealt with.

Here are some practical tips for common issues that arise in Phuket that can assist with ‘brushes’ with the law as set out in this Part 2 of a 2-part article:

1. Hotel injuries
Recently we have been contacted by a number of tourists/visitors to Phuket who have suffered quite serious debilitating injuries in hotels. The circumstances of an injury can be very different on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes an accident really is ‘nobody’s fault’ and is just a quirk of circumstance. However, sometimes an accident can be due to negligence by way of an act of a hotel’s operations, or a failure to do something such as maintaining adequate life, health and safety measures at all times.

If you happen to be someone who suffers an injury, or one of your friends or family suffers an injury, then you should take the following measures

(a) Make sure that the facts of the injury are properly recorded in writing – the time, the place and the nature of what happened – as soon as possible after the injury. Do not hesitate in writing down this information, or if you are incapacitated, ask a friend or family member to do so for you, to avoid both memory and facts becoming clouded.

(b) Take photos of the site of the injury.

(c) If you start to engage in discussions with hotel representatives, make sure you are careful not to make any undue admissions and reserve your rights and position. Whatever you say could be to your detriment if you reach the point where you need to sue for compensation/damages.

(d) If you are incapacitated so that you may not work, you should obtain medical certificates specifically confirming your inability to work and for how long it is anticipated this inability will last.

(e) You must keep a record of all medical expenses and bills.

(f) You must keep a note of the lost income you may have suffered.

(g) You must keep a record of any and all other expenses, eg transport costs including any emergency flights or booking adjustment costs, extra accommodation costs and legal fees.

(h) If there were witnesses, try and secure their agreement to record events and potentially be a witness at a subsequent date. This is easier said than done.

(i) Do not leave the incident too long, and note that a normal claim can be limited by time to one year from the date of the injury.

You should also liaise with a law firm in Thailand, and potentially in your home country, and work out with them if certain proceedings can be brought – through service of notices in ‘paralell’.

Note that the structure of many hotels is that there is a hotel owner, a separate entity that ‘operates’ the hotel on a branded basis (which may have a head office outside of Thailand) and a mandatory insurer. Dealing with a personal injury claim requires an understanding of how to navigate these relationships.

2. Respecting Thai culture
Thailand is world-famous for its hospitality. Not only is it a generally welcoming country, but it is also a very tolerant society in general, unless a foreigner or guest crosses the line.

Sometimes in Thailand there are reports of violent crime against foreigners, and this is sad and disturbing. However, this is not unique to Thailand, and it should be noted that many countries have danger zones where crime takes place on an indiscriminate basis; London’s streets have stabbings and now more gun crime; there is plenty of gun crime in the U.S. and currently a high crime and murder rate in Chicago. Thailand’s tolerance can lead to a false sense of the right to take advantage of the tolerance.

When listening to stories of encounters that foreign visitors experience, unfortunately the issues may be self-created or a large part of the issue may have been contributed to through ignorance or deliberate misconduct.

I often see, as I am sure you do, lists of ‘do’s and don’ts in Thailand. Really there are some people, particularly residents who have lived here for some years, who should know better. I mentioned some issues in the first part. Here is a special list of just two particular issues of significant note:

  • Don’t talk about the Royal Family in a disparaging way. It is insulting, and illegal to do so – a serious crime in fact. If you do break this rule and you try to engage another foreigner or a Thai in your conversation, then this means that you could be involving them in your misdemeanor. If you have opinions about your own country, its status and its heads of state, then of course you can express them how you like, in your own country, subject to the laws of that country. Bear in mind that you may one day wish to visit Thailand again; it is wrong to think that because you may not like the laws of a country, you somehow have the right to choose whether to respect those laws or not.
  • Don’t disrespect any religious images –and that includesBuddhist images. In many countries, a Buddha image is displayed as an icon of coolness and may even be used in an image for commercial marketing. However, in Thai Buddhist society, this is not acceptable. Buddhism is generally very tolerant, so the rules of Buddhism will often not be forced upon visitors.

    But it is expected that there is an understanding that tolerance should not invite abuse. Even residents ignore these sensitivities and choose to adorn certain areas of their residence with Buddhist statues and images, not understanding the spiritual significance of such images and without receiving or seeking guidance from a Buddhist on what they are doing.

    Such persons may be forgiven for these mistakes, but the fact of them can be quite embarrassing and can paint a bad picture of foreign attitudes towards Thai culture, including Buddhist culture. If you don’t understand something, then learn about it before you seek to use the images and identity of that thing.

Enjoy your time visiting Thailand, and in particular Phuket. Everyone who cares about the country and this Province wishes that those who show respect will return over and over again. If you do encounter or suffer an injury or difficulty, take the same care as you would in your own country to deal with the incident properly.

By Desmond Hughes (Senior Partner) of Hughes Krupica.
Hughes Krupica is a law firm which specialises in Real Estate; Construction; Hospitality; Corporate; Marine; Dispute Resolution; and Litigation, operating in Bangkok and Phuket, servicing clients in relation to their business activities in Thailand and in other regions of Asia.

GPS coordinate: 7.962140, 98.385884

 Contact info:

Hughes Krupica Consulting (Bangkok) Co. Ltd

Phuket Office:
23/123-5 Moo 2, Kohkaew Plaza, 
The Phuket Boat Lagoon, Tambon Kohkaew, Amphoe Muang, Phuket 83000
Tel:+66 76 608 468 

Bangkok Office:
179 Bangkok City Tower, Fifth Floor,
South Sathorn Rd, Sathorn, Bangkok 10120
Tel: +66 2 872 173

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