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Mistreated tourists Elodie Triche, Damien Della Libera and daughter Oxanna: ''The three of us in the basement of the court, awaiting our judgment''

Being Honest Got Us Arrested on Phuket

Sunday, May 26, 2013
PHUKET: Frenchwoman Elodie Triche told the French media this week know how she, her husband Damien and infant daughter Oxanna were shockingly treated after accidentally leaving Phuket International Airport without a visa or arrival card.

Now she has written her own first-hand account in French for Phuketwan. The account has been translated into English and is published for the first time today.

Her account not only confirms that the couple were arrested, fined and treated poorly for their honesty. It also alleges that officials on Phuket tried to concoct a false story to make themselves look good.

With the publication of Ms Triche's own first-hand account, Phuketwan has decided to name all passengers who were in the same situation.

It is believed that as a result of the honesty of Ms Triche and her husband Damien Della Libera, Qatar Airways was able to contact the other passengers who had missed Immigration and entered Phuket without visas.

The last of those passengers, Russian Vitaly Shirokov, was due to fly out from Phuket today.

The others are Marie Martinez, from France, Jamal Bahloul and Ahmad Omar, from Jordan, Mohammad Ghamloush, from Lebanon, and Mohammad Alenzi from Kuwait.

By Elodie Triche

FRANCE: We left on holidays to Phuket on the third of May 2013 with our 21-month-old daughter. What a joy to share family time under the Thailand sun.

Via a stop at Doha and Kuala Lumpur (27 hours trip), we arrived at Phuket airport on the 4 of May 2013.

Out of the plan, we followed passengers (there were a group of young people in front of us) and went to get our luggage.

Nobody asked for our passport neither our entry cards.

We came out the airport without going through the border service, neither crossing any agent who has to control our passport.

Surprised, worried not to have any stamps on our passport we talked about that to the taxi agency at the exit of the airport, then in the travel agent and at the reception of our hotel and the three persons replied ''no problem''.

During an excursion, a French person offer us to go and see a French travel agency in Patong. This one advise to go back to the airport.

We went back the day after at 8am at the airport Immigration service to make the notice. (We took a taxi at 7am).

We were questioned in Thai and English but as we can't speak both of those languages, we called someone who speaks English to translate.

The immigration staff took us into pictures, they also shooted us! Everybody came around us.

The immigration asked us to redo the way we took when we arrived as being filmed. They were still no control, no staff at this place.

The immigration made us sign some forms in Thai; so we didn't know what was written in it.

Then we made those forms translated, we have realised that those statement were wrong.

I explain: on the paper, it was written they had contacted us by email to come to the airport, and as we didn't show up, the police came to arrest us at our hotel! which was entirely wrong because we showed up at the immigration service by ourselves!

By the way, the immigration service didn't have our email address. (in addition, during the questions, the Immigration wanted our email address and we didn't give them!)

Why did they wanted us to sign wrong statement?

A new statement has been done at the police station to tell the truth!

Then we were transferred to the police station of Talang City (Tachatchai police station). A custody of 12 hours starts!

Our daughter had not eaten and we didn't have the stuff to change her.

The policeman questionned us, took us into pictures, took our fingerprints.

We insisted to contact the embassy. The French consul in Phuket hurried to join us at the police station with his wife.

They informed us that 10 passengers of the flight QR 624 are in the same case; which prove a fault in the airport security and the lack of professionalism of the compagny airline which has to be responsible of their passengers until their entrance in the country.

The police asked for a deposit of 60,000 Bath. after bargaining, the deposit was 40,000 Bath. Qatar Airways paid, which explains a certain responsibility.

The day after, we were called at the Correctional Tribunal of Phuket. the consul and his wife, his secretary and a police volunteer invited us to wait in the basement of the tribunal, where prisoners were chained.

The consul action succeed, we avoided the cell and were able to wait next to it! Fortunately because it would have been inapropriate to imprison us with our daughter with prisoners.

Seven long hours of waiting at the tribunal and the judgment has been made without our attendance, neither somebody to represent us.

We have been condemned to one year of prison with deferment; a fine of 2000 Bath by person had been asked.

Between this time, the consul got a form from the French embassy in Thailand authorising us to stay on the territory from the 9th to the 13th of May 2013.

Out of the tribunal, the consul brought us to the airport to get the passports in order to sort out our situation. We came out with our passport but still with no stamps.

Quatar Airways presented us their excuses and promised us that when we come back we'll have faveur traitement.

Two unacceptable days for tourists who wish to visit Phuket. Such treatment is not correct.

Our daughter locked up at the police station and at the tribunal, we would have preferred to spend our holidays on the beach!

The holidays we were waiting for were messed up!

On the 13th of May is the going back to France. The consul and his wife brought us to the airport.

We couldn't wait to know what will the faveur treatement from Qatar Airways will be!

Arrived at the airport, our luggage were registered in business class, we went through the immigration service where it needed two hours of forms.

Somebody representeing ''Qatar Airways'' brings us to the embarqement and make us wait with our daughter in order that all the passengers enter into the place.

Once the boarding wad done, we were able to get into the place and ended up in economic class!

I thought is was a joke but it was our faveur treatment . . . while children have priority, we had to wait the end of the boarding to have the right to get in.

We thought we'll be leaving on a positive touch. It was pitiable until the last second.

After those facts, we paid extra (taxi, phone call, fine, no holidays . . .)

The French media are informed of our story. I gave a file to Qatar Airways and to the Foreign Ministry.

Just to information, I want to add another fact that happened to us when arrived at Patong:

The day after the judgement at the tribunal, we rented a scooter. My husband parked where all the scooter were parked, in front of a police officer. He went to exchange some money and found his scooter chained! The police officer took his driving license and asked for 1000 bath! My friend had to give him the money in order to take the chain out.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Still no apology, I understand Immigration have to follow procedure but surely it is very unlikely a French couple will sneak into Thailand when they could have "sneaked" in if they wanted to with a 30 day Visa exemption on arrival. Could Immigration not have referred the case to a senior figure and common sense prevailed? I said all along there would not be an apology and I still don't see one coming.

Posted by Lost In Translation on May 26, 2013 10:49


Astonishing. Unfortunately so typical of the degeneration of "service" from Thai authorities. Yes, Phuket is a tourist destination, but not for long.

Posted by mike on May 26, 2013 11:03


TAT should take action here, and offer them a free flight and accommodation for a 2 week vacation on Phuket.

Posted by stevenl on May 26, 2013 11:31


Surprisingly, or maybe not, NO ONE in authority has stepped in to rectify this farce, a complete loss of face, not only for immigration, but for Thailand...shame shame shame, even yingluck should have heard/read about it.

Posted by Phuket_IOC on May 26, 2013 11:57


yes, but if you go to another country and do not know that you just cannot walk into without some sort of processing,
its a 50/50 here.
first time flying? they have facebook and google and cannot figure this out?

"oh, do I need a drivers license officer? did not know"
well, ME dont know anything about taxes either

Posted by allexi on May 26, 2013 12:22

Editor Comment:

I guess it's the victims' fault again, allexi. And being arrested and fined and threatened with jail, as well as invited to make up a different story, is an appropriate reward for honesty, in your opinion? Ever have the feeling you've missed the point?


I mean really....what point does does all this mess move past the point of "loss of face" and become down right shameful to the whole country?

Posted by Ryan on May 26, 2013 12:25


You can imagine the headlines in France.With Asean being implemented in 2015 and Burma opening Thailand will have to adapt or suffer. Then you wonder why there is so much povery here.

Posted by Lost In Translation on May 26, 2013 12:56


Thais think of themselves as in a bubble that justifies their actions, only when this changes, will then the system improve.

Posted by reader on May 26, 2013 13:10


TAT should take action here, and offer them a free flight and accommodation for a 2 week vacation on Phuket.

I would think the last place they would want to visit would be Phuket or even Thailand after this disgusting face saving treatment.

Posted by richie on May 26, 2013 13:15


There is an administrative court in Thailand : ( French transcript ), they should have complained, the issue is very serious.

Posted by anonymous on May 26, 2013 13:59


If you can't trust the authorities to help you, who can you trust when in trouble ?

Sound advice to anyone visiting Phuket - record all your conversations with local authorities and never ever sign anything you don't fully understand. Do not trust the authorities to translate them for you.

I was once being pressured to sign my statement at Chalong police station. I can't read Thai and was alone so I asked for a copy to take it to a Thai friend of mine to translate and then come back to sign the original.

The officer became very agitated and said it was not possible to do that. Either I sign what he wrote or the case would be ignored. Ignore they did, even with the motorbike of the offender impounded and his original driving license in their possession.

Posted by ThaiMike on May 26, 2013 14:24


The French couple should have known not to leave the airport without passing though customs and no one should ever sign documents if they dont understand the contents. Having said that, they were treated horribly but alas no one is ever responsible here in Thailand

Posted by Steve on May 26, 2013 14:47


Always funny with Thai Immigration. A couple of month ago, the officer in Phuket wanted to arrest me because he could not find my entry stamp. I had one but unfortunately too many of them, so he could not find the "right" one. And once, they wanted to arrest me because I had one already but I showed up at the entry line at BKK. The AirAsia bus had tropped us at the international departures building - not at the domestice arrivals... quite funny, actually...

Posted by Martin on May 26, 2013 14:57


I just returned from Bangkok. No rush to get back there. Even with the inferior services, Cambodia is the place to go.

Posted by Ben on May 26, 2013 15:13


Its easy to forget with villa market, central festival, McDonald's and all the western "comforts" that we demand sitting in our air conditioned house or hotel rooms that this is still a third world country, you only have to drive over sarasin bridge to see that. Let this shocking story be a reminder to us all.

Posted by Simon Foulds on May 26, 2013 15:20

Editor Comment:

Thailand is a developing country. Use of the term ''third world'' has been pointless since the ''second world'' - the Communist one - imploded. Today there are developed countries and developing countries. This could happen anywhere that officials have too much power.


It's good that the French couple had their say. It'll be interesting to see what immigration will have for response.

Posted by Nicke on May 26, 2013 15:48


Is there any country in Asia, in which tourism is a major money earner and in which tourists are as shabbily treated as in Thailand? I work in the tourism sector and, honestly, I couldn't name one.

Posted by Swami K. on May 26, 2013 17:22


Immigration will say: "You can go now."

But the big question is: Was it made an example on the french ones, or were the other passengers also brought to court and fined and imprisoned on probation? If they did not get to the other passengers the same way, that just shows it.

And how can they be judged without being present and translated to in the court room? As it is not only a minor fine. This is quite illegal for Thailand. I would not have let me being treated like that, but then I know people here. Why did the french consul did not intervene higher.

The airline should really really do something sincerely to their three passengers, as they let them down the first place, by letting them walk not to immigration.

Maybe for other people with the same problem an advice, go to Immigration in Phuket town. They may be more helpful, as it was not their "fault". Still don't now, why airport Immigration was so pissy about it, as they are clearly not in charge of security in the whole airport.

Posted by Lena on May 26, 2013 18:10

Editor Comment:

The French Ambassador had to write a letter as requested by Immigration before bail could be granted, so the matter could not have gone higher on the French side.

There are two separate issues:

1. the lapse in allowing passengers to skip Immigration.

2. the appalling treatment of the honest couple and their child.


The same thing happened to me in the Philippines 4 years ago. While changing planes at midnight the plane had mechanical problems so we were bussed to hotels. Immigration was closed so no stamps were given to all 200 of us. We then came back the next day and were walked around the customs desk as if we were never there. It was a fun free layover in Manila though. I am just glad I was not stopped on the street by a policeman while I was there.

Posted by Fred Garvin on May 26, 2013 18:12


I did this on a border crossing from Malaysia - it was so confusing doing a temp tourist import on the car. I had to drive my car too, all the way back through Sadoa for the stamp. Phuket town was very nice about ( when the nice, helpful woman was in the corner office office last year.)
They were getting the set up all right - very smart to contact the consulate. One year ABSURD now they cannot visit USA either?
TAT should give them two weeks for free - in Langkawi !!

Posted by EB48 on May 26, 2013 19:51


A 50 / 50 responsibility? A 90 / 10 possibly ! You joking?
90 % fault on the Thai Authorities side!
Regarding the story with the families Scooter parking ticket problem, you, as it seems, are referring to -read exactly-, No problem with a missing drivers license, only the Scooter parked, "obvious" wrong! But a harsh fine !

Posted by Alfred on May 26, 2013 23:50


give us your Email to cover up our shortcomings,we making our evidence of invention fit so we dont look idiotic!
@ Ed this lastest scam seem new and concerning the policeman waits near a ATM awaits a farang then chains the bike and demands 1000 baht tea money heard of this one before? looks a twist on the ciggy butt litter scam.
By the way how many hundred tuk tuks did the the vigilant policeman chain up
for illegal parking what! none how odd.

Posted by slickmelb on May 27, 2013 00:54


There goes some more high end tourists how can these people be allowed to hold positions of power whilst lacking so clearly in any common sense, did they think this would not be picked up by the foreign press and the internet.The land of smiles is turning into the land of sneers here in phuket anyway what action is being taken to prevent this type of incompetence happening again or will that gem never see the light for fear of the loss of Thai face over this matter.

Posted by Scunner on May 27, 2013 01:04


We highly appreciate the consul, his wife and Christiane tourist police without whom we would probably be in prison. They are wonderful people who work voluntarily to help tourists. A big thank you to them.

thank you all, we hope that this never happens again. may we have some answers to the immigration from the airport, Thailand?

Posted by Elodie on May 27, 2013 03:48


This is definitively an absurd story.
What would be interesting to hear is the other side of the story: did the french couple behave in an appropriate way when dealing with immigration?
I have witnessed tourists beeing very, very rude with police, here in Phuket.
Most of expatriates have quite a good experience with immigration officers, at least in Phuket.
So what happened exactly ?

Posted by william on May 27, 2013 13:54

Editor Comment:

william: if you don't speak Thai or English, only French, surely it's fairly difficult to be rude. It's even more difficult with a child in your arms.

There is no ''other side'' to the story. The French Ambassador and others closely connected with the case have no reason to question the couple's account. Nor have you. If they had been rude to immigration . . . perhaps you should read what happened in the Simon Burrowes case.

''Most of expatriates have quite a good experience with immigration officers, at least in Phuket.'' That may be, but with officials, it's the few poor decisions that cause the problems. In this case, deciding to arrest the honest couple - against the advice of local police - proved to be unwise, and unfair.


"In this case, deciding to arrest the honest couple - against the advice of local police - proved to be unwise, and unfair."

That is for sure. Can it be, that there is no way to remedy the problem at the airport because of the strict IT based immigration process, that may not allow to "book" them in the next day, but only leaves immigration with the choice of either breaking the law, by letting them stay without proper entry, or go full force, as they did. Thinking of it, leaving little wiggle room in the IT is maybe a wise move. But due process with prison time, come on... I mean a fine of 1000 Baht feels sufficient for the obviously not willful mistake and their own efforts to clear the situation.

But that still would not explain, why obviously NOTHING happened to the other wrong walkers from this flight.

Posted by Lena on May 27, 2013 14:35


@Lena most of your comments are excellent especially the one about London's financial district - but I digress. Your comment about IT even if this is the case there must be someone in Thailand that can say to them he/she will take responsibility and the officer should stamp their Passport. The problem is, was that person called? I think not.

Posted by Lost In Translation on May 27, 2013 16:24


These poor folks have had a vacation completely ruined due to sheer incompetence and the subsequent attempted cover up of said incompetency. Such a shame.

In most developed countries, the officer that fabricated the statement would be stood down until an investigation into the matter was complete. I'll bet my left nut this won't happen.

Posted by Judo Chop on May 27, 2013 17:47


Interestingly, I arrive in HKT airport from BKK today, on Airasia. The aircraft docked at the north end of the airport, and all pax walked approx 300m inside the building, walking parallel to the beach. Several times, people in front of me walked through open doorways on our right, which were open and unmanned. They were taking a wrong turn, which is supposed to be impossible to do. I was quite surprised. After passing maybe 5 possible exits, there was an Airasia groundstaff directing people through the correct doorway. Something is wrong at the airport, it was not partial to confusing people before .....

Posted by geoff on May 27, 2013 20:03

Thursday April 18, 2024
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