24 May 2009

Innocent abroad?

The ABC reports

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the Government worked hard to help secure the release of Victorian woman Annice Smoel, who spent time in a Thai prison after being accused of stealing a bar mat.At the same time, Victorian Premier John Brumby has accused Thai authorities of overreacting in the case.

Ms Smoel, 36, was greeted with hugs and cheers by her four daughters and other relatives when she arrived at Melbourne Airport this afternoon.She was released late yesterday after pleading guilty to stealing a bar mat almost three weeks ago. A Thai court suspended her six-month jail sentence after the Governor of Phuket paid her $38 fine.

Mr Rudd said the Department of Foreign Affairs did a lot of work behind the scenes to secure her release.

"Helping the family, helping the individual, and negotiating quietly with the Thai authorities to make sure that this can be dealt with," Mr Rudd said. "And they've done a very good job, and I congratulate them.And I would say to the family concerned, that we're pleased that the little ones have that anxiety removed."

Mr Brumby, meanwhile, says the Thai authorities "gravely" infringed Ms Smoel's human rights when they charged and jailed her.

"To be honest, that message did get through to the Thai authorities and they saw common sense and that this was a trivial matter, that there'd been an over reaction and that a woman's rights had been gravely infringed," he said.

However Mr Brumby says he hopes the relationship between the two countries will be repaired.

Despite his propensity to bang the populist drum , I thought that Andrew Bolt had a pretty sensible take on the matter before it was resolved.

"Next time, pack some manners" was the headline of his comment after it was all over . One succinct sentence is IMO a fair comment on our times:

It strikes me that our public manners in fact no longer meet the standard required in most other countries, and improving them might make us a lot safer when we travel.

Perhaps this point could be emphasised more on the DFAT General Travel Advice web page.

Clarification 25 May 11am

The title of this post is not meant to refer to the book by Martin Indyk about peace talks in the Middle East which was the subject of an item on ABC RN Breakfast this morning.

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