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Inside the ''Honest Couple'' Scandal: a written note in a passport

Outraged Honest French Couple Ask: Did Phuket Immigration Punish All '100 Percent'?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013
The Honest Couple Phuket Immigration Scandal

PHUKET: A French couple who say they were appallingly treated by Immigration at Phuket International Airport have been ''outraged'' by the Phuket governor's version of events.

Honest tourists Elodie Triche and Damien Della Libera went back to Immigration when they discovered they had left Phuket airport without visas.

Despite their honesty, they were arrested, interrogated at length, fined and eventually expelled for their simple error.

It was primarily the fault of their airline, Qatar Airways, for not having someone at the airport to guide them to Immigration.

What the couple are still asking is: were the other seven or eight passengers on the same flight who made the same error treated the same, or were the couple made scapegoats by Immigration officials protecting their reputations?

On Friday, Phuket Governor Maitree Intrusud spoke at length about the incident at a media conference for European Union ambassadors on Phuket.

The governor said Immigration officials told him that they arrested Elodie Triche and Damien Della Libera because Qatar Airways had a history of passengers bringing drugs to Phuket.

Qatar Airways - rated the best airline in the world in 2012 and the second best in 2013 - has yet to make a public statement about the case. But now its reputation is on the line.

Elodie Triche and Damien Della Libera also alleged that Immigration wanted them to sign a statement that would have said that Immigration and police proactively arrested them, rather than the couple going back to the airport and alerting officials to the mistake.

The French couple were deprived of days of their Phuket holiday, fined 2000 baht each and humiliated. But the governor told the Phuket media: ''This thing happened because Immigration were doing their job to 100 percent.''

Phuketwan joins the French couple in asking how the other passengers who made the same accidental error at Phuket airport were treated.

If Immigration was doing its job ''to 100 percent,'' those passengers should have been arrested and fined, too.

If the others were not arrested and fined, then Immigration has unfairly persecuted this couple. A public apology should be made.

''I think it is important to point out what happened to us to improve the treatment of tourists,'' Ms Triche emailed Phuketwan today.

''Reading what the governor said makes us even more angry. We want to know what happened to the other passengers.

''If Immigration was sincere in its claim that they were worried about drugs being brought into Thailand, all the others who made the same mistake would have been arrested immediately.''

She and her husband saved for a year to take the holiday with their infant daughter Oxanna on Phuket. ''Our intention was to enjoy Phuket, not to discover the police stations and the law court,'' she said.

''Our impression of Phuket remains negative. From what we saw, the authorities are corrupt. But the streets of Thailand are very nice.''

Phuketwan has obtained documents about the incident and we publish below translations into English from the original Thai.

The Thai language originals can be seen in the photo album accompanying this article.

The documents claim that when the couple returned to the airport to have their visas stamped in their passports, they were endeavoring to leave the country.

Like much of what the airport officials claim, that was not true.


Arrest Record
Phuket Airport Immigration
May 8, 2013

This arrest record is made as the evidence to show that today (May 8, 2013) at around 8:30am according to the command of Pol. Col. Asavin Naksawas, Phuket Airport Immigration superintendent, Pol. Capt. Surasak Jaidee, Phuket Airport Immigration inspector, Pol. Lit. Col. Supamit Katasila, Phuket Airport Immigration inspector, Pol. Capt. Seksan Wongsala, Phuket Airport Immigration vice inspector, Pol. Lit. Anirut Pattarawiwat, Phuket Airport Immigration vice
inspector, and Pol. Sgt. Santipab Anon, Phuket Airport Immigration police.

Co-arrested 2 offenders:
1. Mr. Damien Della Libera, 29, French, carrying French passport number 13AR81037
2. Mrs. Elodie Monique Triche, 32, French, carrying French passport number 06AV08965

In charge of entering the country, not following the rules of the ministerial regulations, and not passing the permission of the immigration officer.

The offenders receive the rights to:
1. To give or not to give the testimony. And the words of the offenders might be used as the evidence of the judgement.
2. To meet or to consult with the lawyer or the person(s) who will be the lawyer.
3. To inform the family or the person(s) that the defenders trust about the arrest.
Police already contacted and informed the family of the offenders about the place of the arrest already. Also informed about the place where the offenders are kept.

Date, time, and place of the arrest:
Phuket Airport Immigration Office, Phuket
International Airport, Mai Khao, Thalang, Phuket, on May 8, 2013, at around 8:30am.

Behavior of the arrest:
On May 8, 2013 at around 8:30 AM while the Police arrest team was patrolling the area where they were responsible in Phuket Airport due to the command of the chief, When they arrived at the international departure immigration office, they got a report from the immigration officer that Mr, Damien Della Libera, 29, French, carrying French passport number
13AR81037, and Mrs. Elodie Monique Triche, 32, French, carrying French passport number 06AV08965. The two offenders went to give the passports in order to leave Kingdom of Thailand.
Then the officer checked the passport, they found out that the two offenders entered the country, not following the rules of the ministerial regulations, and not passing the permission of the immigration officer. The officer interrogated the two offenders and they admitted that they are the same people
according to the passports. The arrest police team informed them the charge and the rights according to the laws, arrested them, and sent them to the case officer to investigate according to law.
On the arrest process, the offenders gave the testimony that On May 4, 2013, they flew with Qatar Airways, flight QR624, and arrived at Phuket International Airport at around 3 PM. When they arrived, they entered inbound passenger building at the airport and entered the country without getting the passport checked by the immigration officer.
In addition to, in this arrest, the officer who arrested the offenders did not have the belonging of the offenders ruined, lost, devalued, or useless. Also the officer did not ask for money nor belongings of the offenders. And the officer did not hurt the body or the mind of the offenders.
The officer read the arrest record to the offenders, but due to the fact the the offenders do not understand Thai, Mr. Jakupong Siriwong, 35, Thai, ID number 3829900019625, a staff of Bangkok Airways Ground Services, translated the arrest record to the offenders. And the translator swore tonot edit, add, or cut the message in the arrest record. The offenders acknowledged the message through the translator and admitted that it's correct. So the offenders signed the paper as the evidence. And the officer made one copy of the arrest record for the two offenders.

So they signed the paper as the evidence.

(Sign) ...Damien Della Libera... Offender
(Sign) ....Jakupong Siriwong... Translator/swore/read
(Sign) ...Pol. Lit. Col. Supamit Katasila... Arrested
(Sign) ...Pol. Capt. Seksan Wongsala... Arrested
(Sign) ....Pol. Lit. Anirut Pattarawiwat... Arrested/recorded/read
(Sign) ....Elodie Monique Triche... Offender
(Sign) ....Pol. Sgt. Santipab Anon.... Arrested

French Embassy of Thailand
May 9, 2013

Topic: French Embassy requires to bail out two French people
To: Superintendent of Phuket Airport Immigration

French Embassy of Thailand wants to inform that 2 French tourists:
1. << Mr. Damien DELLA LIBERA>> Born on 13/10/1984, 29 years old, carrying French
passport number 13AR81037
2. <<Mrs. Elodie TRICHE>> Born on 17/10/1981, 32 years old, carrying French passport
number 06AV08965

are being accused in charge of entering Kingdom of Thailand without having the passports stamped from the officer of Phuket Immigration. On May 9, 2913, Phuket Court has a judgement, and the case is done.

Now, the couples are kept at Phuket Airport Immigration waiting to be sent sent back. But because the two are supposed to be back in May 13, and cannot postpone.

Therefore, French Embassy would like to bail out the couple from May 9-13, 2013 and will bring back the couple to Phuket Airport Immigration officer immediately on May 13 to go back o
France.

Also the embassy assigned Mr. Claude De Crissey, honorary consulate of Phuket, who is carrying this letter, to be the representative of the embassy to bail out the couple.

Please consider and allow. We will be thankful.
Best Regards,
Pierre BLONDEL
Consul



Royal Thai Police
Record of offenders' confession according to section 20
Act of Civil Court 1956



Tha Chatchai Police Station, Thalang, Phuket
May 8, 2013

Name: Mrs. Elodie Monique, 32, carrying French passport number 06AV08965
Origins: French Nationality: French Religion: Christian Occupation: Secretary
Address: Baramee Hotel, Patong, Kathu, Phuket
(Elodie's parents' names)
Born: France

Case officer inform the charge to the offenders and also informed that this testimony could be the evidence for the judgement in the court.
I acknowledge all the charge, and I am willing to give the testimony:

Question: Can you speak or understand Thai?

Answer: I cannot speak or understand Thai. I would like to give the testimony in French, and Mr. Claude De Crissey, 62, French, will be the translator. And he swore to translate my testimony correctly, will not add nor erase the testimony that I give.

Question: Has the case officer informed you the charge yet, and how?

Answer: Yes, he has. He informed that the offenders have the right to give or not to give the testimony, and it will be the evidence of the judgement, have to the right to meet and consult with the lawyer or the person who will be the lawyer, the right to join and listen to the investigation, the right to inform the family about the arrest and the place of the keeping, the right to receive the visit (appropriately), and the right to receive the medical treatment if the offenders are ill.

Question: Do the offenders have a lawyer? Do they want one or somebody trustful to join and listen to the investigation?

Answer: No, I don't have a lawyer. And I don't want anyone to listen to the investigation except the translator which is provided by the case officer.

Question: According to the charge that the case officer informed that on May 8, 2013 at about 8:30, an officer of Phuket Airport Immigration found out that on May 4, 2013, the offenders entered the country with Qatar Airways, flight QR624, arrived in Phuket Airport at around 3pm.
When the offenders arrived, they entered the inbound passenger building, and left the building without have the passport stamped from the immigration officer. So the officer arrested them and informed that they are given the charge of entering the country without following the ministerial
regulations and not being passed from the checking of the immigration officer.

Scene: Phuket Airport Immigration, Moo 6, Mai Kao, Thalang, Phuket

Question: Have the offenders acknowledged the crime? And how do they give the testimony?

Answer: I acknowledge and understand the charge well. And I confess all the charge willingly myself. No one forces, swindling, or persuading me to.

Question: How do you confess this charge?

Answer: On May 4, 2013, I came from France to Phuket to travel. I flew with Qatar Airways, flight QR624. I arrived in Phuket Airport at around 3 PM. And then I entered the inbound passenger building. At the moment, there were a lot of passengers from other airlines walking around, and I haven't been to Phuket before, and there were not enough signs where to go at the airport, and there were no airport staffs to tell me where and what to do. And as I have been to many countries in Europe, I didn't have to get my passports stamped. SO I was confused, and I was following other passengers who arrived together to a way in the airport until we reached the inbound passenger building. I went back to the way I went to get my luggage, and then left the building, and hailed a taxi to Baramee Hotel in Patong, Kathu, Phuket. While riding the taxi, I told the driver that I haven't got my passports stamped. And the driver said it's okay. After that, I asked the staff of the hotel about the passport, and he/she said it's okay. And then on May 8, 2013 at around 8am, I asked a foreign tourist who stayed in the same hotel, he/she suggested that if I don't go back to contact the immigration officer immediately to inform the problem, I might get in
trouble about immigrant law of Thailand. So I immediately went to Airport Immigration, but when police acknowledged that I didn't pass the permission to enter the country, they arrested me and informed me the charge. I confess all the charge that I do not pass the permission of the immigration officer according to the charge.

Question: Where was the scene, and where were you arrested, and when?

Answer: The scene was at Phuket Airport Immigration office, Moo 6, Mai Kao, Thalang, Phuket, on May 4, 2013 at around 3 PM. And I was arrested at the same on May 8, 2013 at around
8:30 AM.

It is accurate. And the translator translate and read to the offenders. And they admit that it's true.

(Sign) .................................... Offender
(Sign) ................................... Translator
(Sign) Pol. Capt. .................. Case officer, type, read

Question: Have you been given any criminal case before?
Answer: No.

Question: Have you been indignant anyone in the charge?
Answer: No.

It is accurate. And the translator translate and read to the offenders. And they admitthat it's true.

(Sign) .................................... offender
(Sign) ................................... Translator
(Sign) Pol. Capt. .................. Case officer, type, read

PASSPORT COPIES

1.

Noted: This person entered the kingdom on May 4, 2013 with flight QR624 without following the ministerial regulations and did not pass the permission from the immigration officer. Phuket Court already persecuted and fine 2,000 Baht according to undecided case number 2615/56 and decided
case number 2585/56. And will push out of the kingdom.

Signature
Pol. Lt. Sittichai Tiantong
Sub-Inspector of Phuket Airport Immigration

2.

Inbound Documentary
Noted: This person entered the kingdom on May 4, 2013 with Qatar Airways, flight QR624, at around 1523 hours without having the passport stamped and didn't pass the permission of immigration officer. Phuket Court already persecuted according to undecided case number 2614-5/56 and decided case number 2584-5/56 on May 9, 2013. And will push out of the kingdom.

3.

Noted: This person entered the kingdom on May 4, 2013, flight QR624, at around 1523 hours without following the ministerial regulations and didn't pass the permission from the immigration officer. Phuket Court already persecuted and fine 2,000 Baht according to undecided case number 2614-5/56 and decided case number 2584-5/56 on May 9, 2013. The case is completely over. And will push out of the kingdom.

Signature
Pol. Capt. Seksan Wongsala.
Sub-Inspector of Phuket Airport Immigration

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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I'd be more worried about security at the airport right now if up to 10 people can get out without passing the immigration desk.

It is easily done though as I almost done it myself last month but got pulled back by Air Asia staff and on to the correct trajectory...

Posted by Jamie on June 19, 2013 16:29

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First of all. Thank you Phuket wan for publishing this.
Secondly it'll be interesting to see who the authorities will be blaming now. They're running out of options, aren't they?

Posted by Nicke on June 19, 2013 16:46

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I'm looking forward to a public apology from immigration and the governor.

Posted by stevenl on June 19, 2013 17:39

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I worked as flight deck crew for airlines for 20+ years traveling all over SE Asia, the US, Middle East and Europe. It was always my understanding that the airline staff lining the route from aircraft to immigration were there as a courtesy and to deal with Pax who needed a bit of extra help. This is the first time that I have ever heard that pax on this part of their journey were not under the auspices of the airport staff, and I still find it somewhat untenable. Sure, that part of a country is "international" and outside immigration, just like the transit lounge, but the security of it is the responsibility of the host country. many airports have terrorist concerns; are the airline staff expected to tote weapons to keep that area secure? I don't think so.

Posted by A Skeptic on June 19, 2013 17:46

Editor Comment:

We believe it's a deal agreed between Phuket International Airlines and the airlines that operate there. But until Qatar has something to say publicly, it's difficult to confirm the actual arrangement.

gravatar

A Skeptic

Experience is worth a thousand words.

Posted by GiantFan on June 19, 2013 19:29

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What's the favorite candy in Phuket - fudge. What's the best place for an egg - on face! This couple did the right thing and were treated disgracefully, statements from the Gov and others are absolute drivel but not unexpected. I understand that the relevant officials are embarrassed by what occurred but to blame shift just makes them look even more pathetic.

Posted by Mister Ree on June 19, 2013 20:02

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So is this a plain lie by the officers in charge: "The two offenders went to give the passports in order to leave Kingdom of Thailand." or is there supporting evidence of them wanting to leave the country like a plane ticket for that day? Obviously not. They just came to correct their mistake as soon as they were aware of it.

No word of drug muling or checking their belongings or even raiding their hotel room for evidence of drug muling. But of course, that was just a joke to everyone but the honest couple.

Posted by Lena on June 19, 2013 21:30

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All airlines and other users of the airport pay for the use and service at the airport to AOT, AOT should be blamed and take proper responsibility of this unfortunate incident, AOT failed in ensuring that passengers came to immigration. If AOT cannot make a failsafe system then get some help elsewhere. Just passed through Helsinki and they appeared to have a well functioning system..have a look at that or any other well functioning airport.

Posted by Sailor on June 19, 2013 23:22

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Thanks for publishing the details however in these days of rampant identity theft, perhaps in future you may want to not publish such details as the exact passport number to protect the security and privacy of the individuals.

Posted by Hoppsan on June 19, 2013 23:24

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I have not been impressed by the new governor.

Posted by May on June 20, 2013 09:01

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If they were drug carriers they would have already got rid of their drugs....if they were taking drugs out of Thailand they would not attract attention to themselves by not getting an entry stamp. Sadly for Thailand this is just another case of lies by the authorities, trying to cover up to not lose face (respect) and once again no apology. This is part of the reason Thailand is a poor country because Westerners find it so difficult to understand this conduct which is so outdated with globalisation, when will Thailand change. The country is about 60 years out of date in it's mentality. They could have so much more money if they related to foreigners rather than we are Thai, the foreigner is worng.

Posted by Donating Farang on June 20, 2013 15:45

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Two words: "naa taag" = face, the face of a Thai is most important, write about that Mistah Morrisson!

Posted by Alex on June 21, 2013 13:03


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