Interior Minister Anutin Charnvirakul urges Swiss man Urs Fehr to leave Thailand as the Phuket governor is tasked with monitoring the prosecution of Fehr’s assault case. Fehr faces public outcry and potential deportation over the attack on a female Thai doctor.

The Minister of the Interior, Anutin Charnvirakul, has intervened again in the case of accused Swiss man Urs Fehr in Phuket. It comes simultaneously with an announcement by Phuket Governor, Sophon Suwannarat, that an appeal by the accused Swiss national against his visa revocation would proceed. Certainly, Mr Anutin has let it be known that Mr Fehr is wasting his time pursuing such an appeal. ‘It’s a waste of time, better to go home,’ Mr Anutin recently told reporters. Now he is also urging Governor Sophon to make sure that the prosecution against Mr Fehr is not settled financially.

On Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul (centre) again entered the controversy over Swiss national Urs Fehr (left). He even sent a social media message on the LINE app to Phuket’s governor Sophon Suwannarat. The Interior Minister warned of financial inducements being offered to have the case against Mr Fehr settled outside court. Mr Fehr faces a charge under Section 391 for assaulting Dr Thandao Chandam on February 24th 2024. At the same time, Mr Anutin is on record as assuring the Swiss man that his appeal against the cancellation of his visa will not succeed. Mr Anutin is the ultimate adjudicator under the 1979 Immigration Act.

Interior Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has ordered Phuket Governor Sophon Suwannarat to monitor the high-profile prosecution of Swiss man Urs Fehr.

The deputy PM wants the process to go forward without any interference or influence. 

At this time, reports suggest the complainant, Dr Thandao Chandam, may have been approached to settle her case financially.

Nighttime alleged assault happened on February 24 or Makha Bucha Day. Urs Fehr however claims he just slipped and glanced off the young Thai woman’s back

In brief, the case involves an incident that took place on February 24 or Makha Bucha Day.

That evening, Dr Thandao, a doctor at Dibuk Hospital, and a friend went out to enjoy the Buddhist holiday.

At length, they were watching the moon from steps on Yamu Beach in the Pa Khlok area of Phuket’s Thalang district.

The two young women were seated near the beach near a villa rented by Urs Fehr and his Thai wife. Fehr is accused of subsequently physically attacking the doctor by kicking her in the back.

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However, the Swiss man later showed pictures of a stubbed toe. He claimed the injuries occurred while he slipped and partially glanced off the young woman’s back.

Fehr, the 45-year-old managing director of Elephant Sanctuary Park Co. in Phuket, denies the charge against him. Mr Fehr came to live in Thailand nine years ago in 2015.

Dream lifestyle in Thailand for the 45-year-old Swiss man may be coming to an end if he is convicted on the charge facing him related to the night of February 24th

Mr Fehr has led a dream lifestyle in Thailand including living in a beachside villa. At the same time, his firm, in which his Thai wife is a major shareholder, generated ฿46 million in income last year.

In short, he claims he did not assault the Thai doctor on February 24th. He claims he slipped on the steps and fell while angrily approaching the two women. 

At length, he had mistakenly formed the view they were trespassing on his property. However, the steps were built on public land, and officials have since demolished them.

In response to reports of lobbying, Minister Anutin posted a screenshot of a Line message he sent to Governor Sophon. Therein, he urged the provincial boss to hold a press conference. He called for the governor to affirm his stance against any bribery or interference in the case.

Minster Anutin publicly messages the Governor about interference in the case of Urs Fehr before the Phuket Provincial Court aimed at settling the matter

‘Don’t let it [lobbying] happen, Phuket governor,’ Anutin wrote. ‘Hold a press conference to confirm your stance that you will not let bribe-taking happen to have the case overturned. Follow up the case closely.’

Deputy Prime Minister Anutin is the leader of the nationalist Bhumjaithai Party.

A colourful and controversial character, he has long been a critic of misbehaviour by Western expats in Thailand. Mr Anutin decries the careless and often selfish behaviour of some foreigners in Thailand.

In particular, he is noted for a tirade against foreigners at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis. This came in February 2020 when a German tourist refused a free face mask offered by the minister.

Afterwards, the then Minister Of Public Health threatened to have such people deported.

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He was later involved in a public controversy over denigrating remarks about Western foreigners on a visit to Chiang Mai. This was in March 2020.

During a visit to the northern city, he appeared to question the hygiene of white western men in Thailand.

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Before going into politics full-time after the 2019 General Election, Mr Anutin was a businessman. Previously, he was President of Sino Thai Engineering, one of the country’s largest contractors. 

At the same time, he is known in diplomatic circles in Bangkok as a friendly minister and approachable.

However, his period as Public Health Minister led to the disastrous cratering of the Thai economy in 2020, because of the pandemic. This is something it has not yet recovered from.

Similarly, it was Mr Anutin who unleashed the country’s marijuana revolution. In short, this occurred when regulations he signed came into force in June 2022.

This week, Dr Thandao’s father remained implacable.

His view was that his daughter would never accept financial compensation in exchange for dropping her case against Urs Fehr.

However, such a move is explicitly provided for under Thai law.

Father of Dr Thandao writes to the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) urging a more serious charge under Section 295 of the Criminal Code be pursued

On Wednesday, he submitted a letter to the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG). In short, he requested a review of the decision by Phuket prosecutors.

This was to indict Fehr on a lesser criminal charge. Fehr faces a charge under Section 391 of the Criminal Code.

Significantly, this is for using force to physically attack a person without causing physical or mental harm. Dr Thandao and her father believe that the charge should be upgraded due to the harm caused.

26-year-old Dr Thandao Chandam has in the past few weeks threatened her own criminal proceedings against Urs Fehr.

The doctor wants an action pursued under Section 295 of the Criminal Code. This specifies causing physical and mental harm.

Victim, a hospital doctor, claims to be suffering from PTSD after her ordeal on the night of February 24. Dr Thandao insists she suffered mental anguish

Dr Thandao says he has had consultations with a psychiatrist. She is claiming to be suffering from PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder.

At any rate, she claims the nighttime incident and its violent nature have caused her to have nightmares.

Governor Sophon confirmed that the case is currently before the courts.

Similarly, he insists no one can interfere with the legal process. He emphasises that there is no lobbying taking place to assist Mr Fehr.

‘There is no person or group from the Phuket Provincial Office lobbying to help with the case. Government officials will strictly carry out their duties according to their authority,’ he insisted this week.

Phuket MP Chalermpong Saengdee of the Move Forward Party has declared the assault case a major societal issue.

The progressive politician claims that it affects all Thais. Therefore, it should not be treated as a minor offence. 

Strong public feeling in Phuket about this case

His support for Dr Thandao illustrates the broad cross-section of feeling that is being reported in Phuket.

In particular, in response to this case, which the public sees as an outrage, but also other misbehaviour by foreigners.

Public patience is understood to be running thin. Especially after the violent attacks on Saturday, March 16th of a police officer committed by two New Zealand brothers.

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New Zealand men face serious charges after a violent attack on a police officer in Phuket on Saturday

The Move Forward MP emphasised that allowing foreign offenders to influence the outcome of a case with money is unacceptable.

Fehr’s visa was revoked earlier in response to public outcry over the incident.

Although his visa expired on March 13, he is allowed to remain in the country until his trial is concluded.

An appeal on the revocation of Fehr’s visa will be heard soon by a central-level committee led by the Ministry of Interior’s Permanent Secretary.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Anutin, the ultimate adjudicator, says that Mr Fehr is only wasting his time pursuing his revoked visa

However, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin has already warned the Swiss national that his appeal will not succeed.

Ultimately, the Minister of the Interior has the final say on the matter. ‘Not under this interior minister’s watch,’ was how Mr Anutin described Mr Fehr’s appeal prospects recently.

Significantly also, there has been some tension between the Interior Minister and the Phuket governor on this matter.

In March, Minister Anutin abruptly ordered Governor Sophon Suwannarat home from a tourism fair in Germany to deal with the issue. This was following widespread public protest and anger.

The case certainly continues to stir significant public outcry. 

In turn, this has prompted Minister Anutin to visit Phuket. In a recent trip, he warned foreigners to abide by Thai law or face visa revocations.

Video clip of the February 24 incident damaged Mr Fehr irrevocably due to the behaviour exhibited by him towards the two young women. It struck a nerve

‘What happened was the behaviour of a few people, but wherever it happens, we will handle it,’ Anutin said. ‘You can see that recently it was done. We withdrew the visa. An appeal was submitted to the Ministry of Interior. There is no need to appeal; it’s a waste of time, better to go home.’

Dr Thandao, at the same time, continues to express her concern about the prosecution of the case.

For instance, at the outset, some police initially suggested the young doctor should apologise to Mr Fehr.

Undoubtedly, the position was transformed dramatically when Mr Fehr himself produced the video clip to Thalang police.

The clip showed a nighttime scene and a visibly angry Mr Fehr. In short, he used derogatory terms as he ordered two young women to leave.

The video struck a sensitive note with the Thai public relating to bullying and aggressive behaviour by foreigners. In turn, it is unlikely Mr Fehr will be forgiven for his actions.

Under Thailand’s 1979 Immigration Law, a conviction in court could see the Swiss man deported from the country and additionally, blacklisted. 

Mr Fehr has already been prosecuted and fined by Thalang Police for defamation as well as reckless and dangerous driving.

This was related to an altercation with an ambulance driver during the Christmas period, last year in Phuket.

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Swiss man Uli Fehr’s hellish Thai nightmare as he is detained and branded as a threat to society

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