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Stubs from the Surat Thani to Phuket leg of the bus journey

Tourist Calls for Arrest of Bus Scam Thieves

Saturday, December 17, 2011
PHUKET: A tourist robbed of about $300 in cash on his way to Phuket believes hundreds of other expat visitors to Thailand have probably been victims of an ''inside scam'' on VIP buses.

Irishman Kieran Moloney knows of at least one other tourist - a woman from Estonia heading for Australia, where she now lives - who was robbed of about $600 on the same bus trip south from Bangkok. He speculates that it happens ''all the time.''

Phuket Deputy Transport chief Wanta Pumararoskon yesterday confirmed Mr Moloney's fears, saying that the night bus route from Bangkok to Surat Thani was a source of growing concern.

''It's a known problem there,'' he said. ''People are safer coming direct to Phuket.''

The 47-year-old Irishman, who has travelled widely over the past 20 years, was shocked when he reached Phuket this week to find he his hand-luggage had been pillaged and and his larger bag - stored with other luggage in the bottom deck of the bus - was also raided.

''As we were lining up for the bus in Bangkok near Khao San Road, the girl selling tickets said 'Keep everything important close to you on the bus.' This should have rung bells,'' Mr Moloney told Phuketwan yesterday.

''I believe this is a scam and probably happening on a regular basis.''

Mr Moloney took a seat near the front of the night bus for Surat Thani and kept his backpack, containing his cash and documents, on the floor close to his legs.

''I was on the inside,'' he said. ''We got off for a break and I took my bag with me. I fell asleep for an hour or two and I woke up in Surat Thani.

''My bag seemed to be a little bit further forward. I looked in the backpack to check and could feel my personal smaller bag inside, so I thought it was all ok.''

His camera and passport were still there. Mr Moloney changed to the Phuket-bound bus and stayed awake through that trip.

Only when he reached his guesthouse accommodation in Phuket City did Mr Moloney, from Cork, discover the cash was missing.

When he checked his large travel bag, he found three new football jumpers, bought as souvenirs and buried at the bottom of the bag, had been taken.

''It happened on the bus from Bangkok to Surat Thani, I am 100 percent sure,'' he said.

When the second bus arrived in Phuket, another passenger off the Surat Thani bus - an Estonian woman who now lives in Australia - asked for his advice about accommodation and headed for the same guesthouse.

''After we'd checked in she said to me, 'By the way, is anything missing from your bags? I think I'm missing some money.'''

It was then that Mr Moloney found his cash - about $300 in euros, dollars and three other currencies - was missing.

''The woman was sitting seven or eight rows behind me, on the other side. For me, it was an inside job. In Myanmar (Burma) I bought three replica football jumpers as souvenirs, and they were gone from the very bottom of my large bag.''

''I know I am not going to get my money back but I want to stop other people from losing their cash,'' he said.

''This will happen tonight, and the night after, and it has probably been happening for months. Police could easily find out what was happening.

''Do the people who run the buses know what's going on? When that girl said 'keep everything tight' I should have realised.''

Mr Moloney said he thought the thieves were unscrewing floor panels to reach the bags.

He had hoped to move next week from Phuket City to Patong to celebrate Christmas and New Year but will now have to consider whether to cut short his trip and head on to Sri Lanka earlier than planned.

''It's disappointing to have it happen in Thailand,'' he said. ''It's just hard to believe people can do that.''

Touts in Khao San Road usually sell bus tickets via Surat Thani as a cheaper alternative to the direct bus to Phuket.

Mr Moloney says he works to travel and enjoyed visits to meet people all over the world.

When he went to City Hall in Phuket City to report the theft, he said his faith was restored. Three people did what they could to help, and took him to the Irish honorary consul.

''To go through your luggage and steal from the very bottom of the bag . . . that's quite unbelievable,'' Mr Moloney said. ''If it happened in Ireland or anywhere in Europe, police would stop this.

''I should be thankful that they left my passport and camera. In 20 years of travelling, this has never happened to me, even on poor local buses in South America.

''You see this beautiful bus, and you don't think people are going to be robbing you as you sleep. If the police were interested, they could solve this problem quickly.''


Comments have been disabled for this article.


This is going on for many-many years and I feel everyone knows (except tourists).
Since there has never been a arrest as far as i know, i can only guess that this is another 'profit-center' as it would not be to hard to find the thieves I guess....

Posted by Mr. K on December 17, 2011 10:41


going on months or weeks, he's mistaken. this scam has been going on 20 years +

Posted by slickmelb on December 17, 2011 11:03


In most cases, the scammers are the low-rent tourists themselves, the kind who think about saving a few hundred baht with a 20-hour bus ride rather than a 2-hour flight. They concoct stories of lost property to scam the travel insurance company back in their home country.

Posted by Jeremy Jones on December 17, 2011 15:48


This has been going on for decades, as well as many other scams, drink spiking, jetski scams, violence and racketeering by tuk tuk mafia, and the authorities continue to do absolutely nothing. I have personally reported similar incidents at Chalong Police Station on many occasions, only to be told I was wasting my time to bother reporting such things, the police refused to file a report let alone investigate.

Posted by Jesse on December 17, 2011 15:49


this is happeneing already 30 years on THAT route (down south), better take the overnite-train to Surat and sleep on top of your valuables. In the seventies these buses were stopped at GUNPOINT and the travellers were stripped from their belongings (also Thais were victims)

Posted by Anonymous on December 17, 2011 15:58


Usually what happens is one of the thieves hides in the luggage compartment with the bags and goes through them during the journey. It is a well documented crime and has been happening for many years. Avoid private bus companies from tourist areas and use government buses, they are much safer.

Posted by Peter Tudders on December 17, 2011 15:58


careful use of some recording gear and a GPS unit could get to the bottom of it if anyone could be bothered?

Posted by Farang on December 17, 2011 17:38


i have been here 20 years and it was happening when i first came here,as has been said, they hide 1 person in the bus, at the halfway point that person gets on a bus going the other way. i would love to fill a bag with razor blades and fish hooks

Posted by andre on December 17, 2011 18:48


Happened to us last month. Bus from Surat Thani to Bangkok. I notice that they put all the bags below (lounge? I don't know the name) instead of putting it in the compartment. There were also 4 men accompanying the driver which is unusual. They pretended that the bus was having a problem, so we stayed in Surat for more than two hours. I believe this is the time that they ransacked our bags. Upon arrival to Bangkok, one of the passengers checked his bags immediately and he found out that his money was gone. He tried to stopped the bus but they ignored him. I just found out that I lost money as well when I got home. And these sick psychos even put an underwear to my bag from another passengers bag.

Posted by Anonymous on December 17, 2011 21:16


There's not much you can do to prevent this from happening - How lucky are you feeling? if your bags' secured properly, it'll be cut open. If it's hard cased and locked, it'll likely disappear completely. Been happening for the past 15 years I've lived here.

Posted by agogohome on December 17, 2011 22:13


I have meant to ask this for quite a while.
If Thailand is so bad why do you all continue to live there.

Posted by arthur on December 18, 2011 10:34


That's it, the final straw for me. Goodbye Phuket, goodbye Thailand, I'm moving to Vietnam. I have been to Vietnam 7 times in various places and have NEVER ONCE been cheated, robbed, beaten or abused by anyone there. It happens to me on almost a daily basis in Patong Beach. It's been a good 7 years, at times, but now I've had enough. Goodbye forever.

Posted by Eric on December 18, 2011 21:22

Editor Comment:

This article is about the bus between Bangkok and Surat Thani, Eric. Feel free to fly or go Phuket-Bangkok direct.


I can't believe people leave cash or valuables in their luggage.

Posted by Eric (the Viking) on December 19, 2011 13:23


did it occur to anyone the passenger is leaving cash, passports and other items worth a lot of money under the bus and not in a smaller bag along side them. this is nothing new and has been going on for years. research and you won't keep getting yourself in trouble.

Posted by titima on December 21, 2011 14:43

Editor Comment:

As the report says, the passenger had his valuables in a bag on the bus between his feet. Your research should include reading the article.


Ed, again, please look up the definition of robbery. It has one and this isn't it.

Posted by ScubaNinja on December 28, 2011 12:51


This is nothing new, I was warned about this kind of thing happening the first time I visited Thailand over 20 years ago. My "valuable" valuables - passport, wallet, cash - stay very close to me, much closer than a bag by my feet, and bags stowed away out of sight get little plastic tie-wraps on all the zips and openings, they won't stop a theft but you can see instantly if the bag has been tampered with.

Posted by Andy on January 2, 2012 05:19


I had the same thing happen along with other tourists when we were in a mini bus headed from Phuket to catch the ferry to Ko Samui. We got out to get our ferry tickets and were on the other side of the mini bus. It was the only time that our bags were left. I think the drivers crawled through van and rummaged through our bags. Police on Ko Samui told us we were stupid tourists and refused to investigate the bus company when I gave them the name and explained this would happen to other tourists.

Posted by Anonymous on January 12, 2012 12:50


This happened to us yesterday, lost over $1200AUD so annoyed over it. We had our hand luggage on us at all times apart from 5 mins when we got a transfer at Surat Tani.
I admit we should not have left the bag out of sight with the cash in it but after travelling from Cambodia we were so tired we didn't think.
The people who rely so heavily on tourism are all out to scam, rob, mug and steal from the arm that feeds them.
That money was our deposit for an apartment to rent as we wanted to get work in Australia. Devastating is the only word.
After over 6 hours repeating ourselves in the tourist station all we got from the tour operator was 5000 Thai bhat which is about $125.

Posted by Irish travellers on April 14, 2012 15:01


@Andy and anybody else that cares to listen. Plastic ties do absolutely nothing on your bag. Try this ... tie up your zips, then take any sharp pointed instrument a ball point pen will do, push it into the zip anywhere and open the zip. Then fully open the case. Amaze yourselves and then just pull both zippers around to the end of the zip, and re-zip the bag. I have watched the security guys do it, so I know. Wrap your case at the airport in plastic or wrap it in cling wrap yourself in your hotel room. If you need instructions how to do either, I will gladly help out. So, forget locks and zip locks please, you are fooling only yourselves.

Posted by Dun on April 15, 2012 15:09

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