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Disneyland out for beer mat mum
By: POST SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Published: 14/06/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News
PHUKET : The woman who sparked an international incident when she stole a 2,000 baht beer mat from the Aussie Bar in Patong has now been banned from travelling to the US.
Australian mother of three Annice Smoel, 36, has been forced to cancel a planned trip to Disneyland after the US embassy in her home city of Melbourne refused her application for a visa, based on her conviction in Phuket last month.
Smoel was arrested and kept in a police cell for 48 hours after she was caught leaving the popular Aussie Bar in Soi Bangla with the 1.5-metre beer mat stuffed into her handbag.
When undercover police stopped her outside the bar, she tried to flee, and when she was eventually caught abused the arresting officers.
Smoel demanded to be taken to Kathu police station, where she continued to abuse police, including senior officers.
Smoel later claimed the theft was a "prank" and that her friends had put the beer mat into her handbag without her knowledge.
The story became front page news in Australia after Smoel's husband contacted a talkback radio station, claiming his wife was being kept in a Thai prison.
Australian media initially sympathised with Smoel's plight, but the tide turned against her when the full facts were finally revealed.
Smoel eventually admitted her crime, was convicted, given a six-month suspended sentence and fined 1,000 baht.
Phuket governor Wichai Praisa-nob personally paid the fine, publicly apologised to Smoel and told her she would be welcome to return to Thailand anytime she wished.
But as soon as she was safely home on Australian soil, Smoel started bad-mouthing Thailand, Phuket and the Thai people, doing irreparable damage to Phuket's tourism industry.
She sold her story to an Australian women's magazine for a reported 650,000 baht and said she planned to use the money to take her three daughters, Zhian, 12, Daisy, 11, and Lilly, six, on a dream trip to Disneyland in California.
But Smoel discovered this week that US authorities are not as forgiving as the Thais. Her application for a US tourist visa was refused on the basis that she is now officially listed on US databases as a convicted thief.
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