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Phuket GM Flies Amid Airport ID VIP Riddle

Phuket GM Flies Amid Airport ID VIP Riddle

Wednesday, January 19, 2011
THE General Manager of Phuket International Airport has been hurriedly replaced with just 24 hours' notice in a flurry of concern about a mysterious couple who had attempted to fly from Thailand without passports.

The sudden transfer of Wing Commander Prathuang Somkhom to special duties at Bangkok's Don Muang Airport indicates rising levels of alarm about the intriguing case.

It is believed that Transport Minister Sophon Zaram is angry at the handling of the case and infuriated that a committee of inquiry has produced no real results.

Replacing Wing Commander Prathuang Somkhom from tomorrow is the newly appointed Acting Director of Phuket International Airport, Wing Commander Passakorn Surapipit, a former Director of Don Muang and more recently Deputy Director for Operations at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand's main international hub.

Wing Commander Prathuang flies out with the major achievement of having taken Phuket airport beyond seven million arrivals and departures for the first time in 2010.

However, Airports of Thailand has yet to announce its plan to increase Phuket's capacity to at least 12.5 million trips while at the same time coping with a rapid and steady increase in tourist traffic and direct flights.

Today's commotion over the mysterious would-be pair seems to have triggered the change at the top.

Minister Sophon is believed to be agitated that the affair was first drawn to the notice of high-ups by concerned staff at Phuket and Suvarnabhumi airports, rather than senior-level management.

He is also frustrated that an investigation appears to have produced no results. Other nations with an interest in obliterating terrorism and international drug-smuggling may be growing more anxious for answers from Thailand.

The mysterious pair, a man and a woman, attempted to join a VIP flight out of Phuket early in the morning of October 29. The Boeing 737 had flown in from United Arab Emirates the previous day.

Seven VIPs with passports boarded the flight, but Immigration officers refused to let the man and the woman join them, because they did not have passports.

All that is known so far about the couple is that they were Americans who had changed their citizenship to Paraguayian, and that they claimed they had lost their passports.

In normal circumstances, a person who loses a passport would seek temporary travel documents from an embassy.

The couple, who travelled to Phuket by car from Bangkok in their attempt to board the 4am flight, are believed to have returned to Bangkok. They are thought to no longer be in Thailand.
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