Home » Phuket residents demand expulsion of Swiss “bully” as politicians weigh in

Phuket residents demand expulsion of Swiss “bully” as politicians weigh in

Phuket residents demand expulsion of Swiss “bully” as politicians weigh in

Demonstrators gather in front of the controversial villa house on Yamu beach in Thalang district of Phuket on Sunday. (Photo: Achadthaya Chuenniran)

PHUKET: About 500 locals and activists gathered on Yamu beach in Thalang district on Sunday to condemn a Swiss man who allegedly kicked a doctor, demanding his expulsion from Phuket and restoration of public access to the beach where the alleged assault happened, as Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said foreigners must comply with Thai laws.

The protest against the 45-year-old Swiss man – Urs Fehr, also known as David – began at about 9am at the scene of the alleged assualt, steps to the beach in tambon Pa Khlok.  The steps are in front of a villa house where the Swiss man and his Thai wife live, and since the incident were found to have been built illegally and encroach on public land. The Thalang district office has ordered their removal.

On the evening of Feb 24, David allegedly kicked Thandao Chandam, a doctor at Dibuk Hospital in Phuket, in the back while she and her friend were moon-watching on the steps. 

Dr Thandao was also allegedly berated by Khanuengnit, the Swiss man’s wife. The doctor later filed an assault complaint with police over the incident. The couple later later apologised for the incident. They were not present at their villa on Sunday.

The couple appear with Phuket authorities last Friday to apologise for the incident. (Photo: Achadthaya Chuenniran)

“Get out David,” some demonstrators shouted while others were taking photos at the beach steps. Some people held Thai national flags and all of them then sang the national anthem.

Somboon Sampaorat, 58, of tambon Pa Khlok, said local people gathered to demand the return of Yamu beach to the general public.

“In the past people could walk along the beach. After foreign developers arrived and there are housing estates, access is restricted,” he said.

Housing estates replaced a forest covering 300-400 rai where there were wild deer and people could collect forest products, Mr Somboon said.

Suchart Jorasakul, 56, from tambon Koh Kaew, said he and his friends arrived to demand that authorities  clearly demarcate private properties from public areas and access at the beach.

“We want to participate in the demand for the restoration of public access to Yamu beach, a public beach… It turns out that foreigners are occupying too many areas. Please resolve this,” he said.

Activists from the People Movement for a Just Society (P-Move) were also present at the demonstration. They raised banners with messages demanding authorities return public access to beaches.

Meanwhile, Phuket police chief Pol Maj Gen Sinlert Sukhum said officials would consider a blacklist or visa revocation against foreigners who violated laws in Phuket.

Politicians jump on bandwagon

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said he instructed the RTP and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports to step up measures to ensure foreigners comply with the laws. 

Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, deputy leader of the coalition United Thai Nation Party, said he received complaints from small-time operators in Phuket who were affected by businesses run by foreigners.

“They aren’t afraid of the laws with some accused of using narcotic drugs in nighttime venues. They asked me to pass this information to the prime minister and the interior minister to take actions,” he said.

He called on the prime minister and the interior minister to look into the other businesses of the Swiss man at the centre of the scandal to see if they are in compliance with the law. 

Mr Thanakorn said there might be other foreigners who violate the laws and harm the tourism industry.

According to a police source, the Swiss man was initially charged with physical assault and he denied the charge during the questioning. Authorities concerned would look into stay in the kingdom but based on initial information the case did not justify revocation of visa.

An official from the Pa Khlok municipality also filed a complaint against the Phuket Peninsula Estate Co Ltd, which looks after the villa project for encroachment on public land and ordered it to dismantle the steps within 30 days.

Local authorities including livestock officials inspected the Green Elephant Sanctuary Park and found that it had permission to possess all the 15 animals in the compound.