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The Immigration colonel, in the black shirt, ''arrests'' welcomers

Immigration Chief 'Arrests' Phuket Welcomers

Monday, November 23, 2009
Updating Report

THE NEW Immigration chief at Phuket International Airport ''arrested'' members of the media and Tourism Authority of Thailand staff as they prepared to welcome a new flight yesterday.

Colonel Pongtorn Patchimsawat, who was not in uniform, called on about 10 Immigration officers to arrest the media and TAT group.

The incident came as dancers and drummers in traditional costume and the TAT and media awaited the arrival of the inaugural V Australia flight from Brisbane, with 361 passengers on board, including Australian media and tourism officials.

Puzzled passengers walked past the greeting scene, wondering what had gone wrong with the planned traditional welcome and the usual smiling greetings.

Whenever these ''first flights'' arrive on Phuket, local media and welcoming performers and officials go beyond the Immigration desk to greet the new arrivals as they come through the door from the aircraft.

Airport security guards yesterday afternoon escorted the group to that point, as they usually do.

Colonel Pongtorn, new in the role, saw what was happening and asked the group on whose authority they had breached security at the Immigration counter.

When he did not receive a satisfactory answer, he ordered that the group be surrounded by uniformed officers.

Among the welcoming group ''under arrest'' were the new director of the TAT on Phuket, Bangornrat Shinaprayoon, Methee Tanmanatragul, President of the Southern Chapter of the Thai Hotels Association, and the AoT airport director, Prathuang Somkhom.

Only after talking to Khun Bangornrat and the the airport's director for several minutes in his office did Colonel Pongtorn allow the group to go.

Khun Bangornrat and Khun Prathuang both gave a ''No comment'' about the incident today to Phuketwan.

About 15 members of the media took the matter further, meeting at Provincial Hall with Phuket's Governor, Wichai Praisa-ngob, today.

A Phuketwan reader commented that while the arrival of the new regular service between Phuket and Brisbane is a boost for tourism, it appears that people on Phuket are not permitted to book flights to Brisbane and back.
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Comments

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Oh dear, another PR disaster. What were the aussies thinking, coming through the airport?

Posted by william dale on November 23, 2009 16:02

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OMG! Wonder how long he will be in charge? Nice jeans, by the way.

Posted by VFaye on November 23, 2009 17:42

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Sure, it was a screw-up. Colonel Pongtorn didn't get the memo, was out of loop, etc. A PR stumble to be sure.

But given the facts as he had them at the time, Colonel Pongtorn chose to err on the security. I got no problem with that.

Posted by D on November 23, 2009 20:26

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I think the Col. did his job. The area is supposed to be "sterile" with only authorised screened people in the area. It's not his fault that he's professional and complied with both national and international air safety rules. The people that should be held responsible are TAT for not undergoing the security screening. Thailand's airports need more people like the Col. Job well done and I hope he isn't punished for doing his job.

Posted by Happy Visitor on November 23, 2009 21:03

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Your report is wrong in some parts: we were there as part of media. We did not see you there.

He did not 'arrest' anyone but did stop the media filming the Australians at Immigration counters.

Nothing went 'wrong with the planned traditional welcome and the usual smiling greetings' - it went ahead as usual, not 'through the door from the aircraft' but downstairs before they go through Immigration.

The group was not 'surrounded by uniformed officers' - a discussion took place and we continued with greeting, interview, and filming.

It does 'appear (on their website) that people on Phuket are not permitted to book flights to Brisbane and back', but the PR Manager of V Australia told us during our interview, that Thai based passengers can book through local travel agents including LTU.

Our interview & footage at airport will probably be shown on NBT VHF dial this Friday 27 November at 830-9am & later on our websites.

Editor: We look forward to next weekend and NBT's account of the unusually newsworthy arrival that occurred last weekend.

Posted by NBT TV Phuket on November 23, 2009 21:14

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Ummm, oops. Sounds like Colonel Pongtorn Patchimsawat will be back stamping passports again soon. I can see that traditional dancers and photographers would pose a serious security threat - all those smiles could be blinding.

Posted by John L on November 24, 2009 16:13

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Just been informed, our 27 November local weekly program 'Andaman News' will not be on air as there is a live nationwide program. May be shown next week 4 December.

Posted by NBT TV Phuket on November 25, 2009 09:22

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NBT, you sure your footage has not been shelved if there is any hint it could show Phuket in a bad light on You Tube or Andaman news?

Posted by william dale on November 25, 2009 22:28

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Raw footage of traditional welcome and our interview is now on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwCdlAsbjRA
You can judge yourself if it shows Phuket in good light, or not...

Posted by NBT TV Phuket on November 27, 2009 09:54


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