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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''

Airline Had a Drugs Record, Says Governor

Saturday, June 15, 2013
PHUKET: Governor of Phuket Maitree Intrusud yesterday explained away the arrest and punishment of a French couple with a young child by Phuket Immigration last month as ''a mistake.''

He even went so far as to suggest that the honest tourists, who went back to Immigration when they realised they had no visa stamps, were arrested because their airline had had several passengers arrested for carrying drugs in the past.

Readers of Phuketwan will be familiar with the appalling treatment of French couple Elodie Triche and Damien Della Libera, who with daughter Oxanna were arrested and fined when Immigration decided to treat them harshly for their honesty.

It's believed that Phuket Airport Immigration has since apologised to envoys, but not to the French couple, for the way their case was mishandled.

Yesterday Governor Maitree intervened to strongly defend Immigration's action in arresting the holidaymakers when they returned to the airport to get their visa stamps several days after arriving on a Qatar Airways flight.

He even questioned whether the issue should have been raised by Phuketwan journalist Chutima Sidasathian at the media conference with European Union Ambassadors following a seminar about tourism problems.

It had not been discussed at the seminar, the governor said, not quite making clear how Khun Chutima was supposed to know what had or hadn't been discussed behind closed doors.

There are still discrepancies between the account Governor Maitree said he had been given by Immigration and what Ms Triche says occurred.

The governor was told that Immigration and Tachatchai police had been proactive in apprehending the couple.

The couple say they went back to the airport where officials wanted them to sign a false account that would have made it appear that Immigration had discovered what had happened and acted to rectify it.

If the Immigration officials pushed the couple to sign a statement filled with lies, then that clearly falls under the category of the ''abuses of authority'' discussed by the EU envoys behind closed doors.

The couple's appalling treatment has yet to be properly explained. As French Ambassador Thierry Viteau said yesterday in response to the question: ''We wanted to know why they were arrested and of course lodged a complaint. We wanted to know exactly why they were arrested.''

He said envoys remained ''quite concerned.'' Danish Ambassador Mikael Hemniti Winther also responded to the question, saying that ambassadors yesterday discussed ''abuses of authority'' and were concerned about ''extortion and harassment.''

He added that behind closed doors, the governor had given a ''very constructive'' response.

In an answer that appeared to be largely addressed to the Phuket media rather than the international media, Governor Maitree told how a group of eight to 10 passengers from the Qatar flight had taken a wrong turn, picked up their baggage, and left Phuket airport without passing through Immigration.

It was ''an easy-to-make mistake,'' the governor said. Airport and airline staff were ''working well but not well enough.''

Although it was the couple who alerted authorities to the mistake, the governor said: ''Tourists, they must know that they must have a visa stamp.''

It's still not clear whether the other passengers suffered any penalty after the French couple first raised the alarm that a group from the Qatar flight had gone out onto Phuket without visas.

The governor said the fine of 2000 baht was ''not big money, just little money.''

''If I had known, I would have paid their fine because it was a mistake,'' the governor said. ''This thing happened because Immigration were doing their job to 100 percent.''


Comments have been disabled for this article.


I've arrived last week in Phuket on a Qatar flight from KUL and I guess the turn supposed to take is the left just exiting the aircraft and we did so because staff was directing us. Without them, passengers could have easily taken the right turn. Even if there are signs like domestic arrival, not all passengers read and understand english. The answer of the Gov. seems to me appalling. Praise to PW and especially Chutima for following this subject. If Gov. Maitree considers what happened not deserving of being discussed during Tourism seminar meetings, I guess the last 3 lines of this article will scare the hell out of future potential foreign tourists. If I would be one of the french people without the stamp, I would think twice now before going myself to alert authorities. Better to declare my passport was stolen.

Posted by cekipa on June 15, 2013 17:52



Posted by stu on June 15, 2013 20:24

Editor Comment:

Your comments is worthless. Don't waste our time.


Do not forget they register every passenger arriving in Thailand. You can declare your passport lost, but they wouldn't find you on the arrival list and this would be a big trouble.

Posted by Jonathan on June 15, 2013 20:50


I wonder do Thais get treated so shockingly in the EU when they deem to travel, if they do is their shoddy treatment by immigration officials put down to their choice of 5 star airline and lax controls in the so called international airport they land at NO governor it's not you and TAT should be offering this young couple a free holiday to phuket as well as a personal apology upon their arrival to try to make up for this farce

Posted by Scunner on June 15, 2013 23:24


Why are the Thais so reluctant to offer a complete and sincere apology? Instead, they justify their behavior with it's "not big money, just little money."

Posted by Ben on June 15, 2013 23:31

Editor Comment:

I think you mean, ''Why is Immigration so reluctant to offer a complete and sincere apology?'' This is not a national issue but it certainly does reflect poorly on a destination aiming to welcome tourists from all over the world.


we confirm that none of the staff was out of the plane, when we arrest the immigration asked us to repeat the trip being filmed and he always ny person so passengers could pass without being checked. (3 people from immigration filmed us)

Posted by Elodie on June 16, 2013 03:12


The domestic vs transfer passenger arrangement at Phuket has long been shambling. I remember arriving as long as ten years ago and realized that it was possible to enter Thailand without clearing immigration, joking about it with friends if they ever needed to run and hide in Thailand.

For less experienced travelers it has always been a mistake waiting to happen. I can only imagine the reluctance on the part of Thai officialdom to fess up is due to the fact they would have to acknowledge that untold numbers of illegals and undesirables have long used Phuket as an immigration free gateway into Thailand.

Posted by Barry on June 16, 2013 05:12


I bet the French couple dont see this lame excuse as a sorry. Not to worry no one else does in LOS but the world readers of this article get a better idea of what they are walking into before they decide to fly to LOS

Posted by expat Tigger on June 16, 2013 06:58


Governor Maitree,

You are talking pure 'cowpat', sir.

It is your attitude, copied by many in Phuket that is driving the old expat brigade, the regular tourist, who used to spend freely & who helped make the Phuket tourist industry what it was, from the island.

In my humble opinion, the PW has reported fairly and squarely, without bias.

Phuket airport is as much a shambles now as it always has been, despite the many supposed upgrades and renovations.

The problems there have been endless over the years, from the taxi rip off issue to unsmiling immigration officers, both the worst in Thailand, if not Asia.

The French couple were foolish but realised and admitted their mistake. I can understand as they had been traveling for 24+ hours with a young child. Governor Maitree, you show neither understanding nor compassion.

Maybe you too are tired from your travels to think clearly, though no doubt you traveled business class & used the VIP gate at immigration!

While you and those who serve under you exhibit such crass response, you will continue to drive the regular tourist from Phuket. You will get what you so richly deserve and it will not be quality tourism. My guess is that at your elevated level, you do not give an iota!

Posted by Logic on June 16, 2013 08:22


The governor's comments add insult to injury. Admonishing Chutima Sidasathian for asking an intelligent question was over the top. I have arrived on a domestic TG flight from BKK that carried international passengers. I flew EVA from TPE with my bag checked to HKT. I cleared immigration in BKK. When I arrived, I exited via domestic arrivals, but picked up my bag in the international area. People arriving on my flight could have just as easily followed me out into domestic and not turned towards the international arrivals section. There was no one there to direct the arriving pax. The security at HKT isn't high quality.

Posted by Ryan on June 16, 2013 08:32


It starts to be boring to bring up again and again this story, it is clear that all parties have responsibility from the tourist to the airline, to ground staff to immigration and Police how they handled the case but if you have a little brain you know that you have to show at least your passport when arriving in a foreign country, you not need to study at the university for that.This is basic, in France they should also been arrested, whats happening in Lille every day with hundreds of people who entered illegaly the country ?

Posted by Eric on June 16, 2013 09:33

Editor Comment:

What immigrants arriving in Lille has to do with holidaymakers arriving at Phuket airport is a little unclear, Eric. It's not a valid comparison. The issue was raised by Phuketwan and the Governor spoke about it at length. That makes it news. Injustice shouldn't bore you, Eric.


My comparison is correct, missing a stamp in your passport means to be illegal in every country in the world, the way they came in here is of course different but a little common sence of the arriving tourists should have avoid problems. You imagine this case in the US with there paranoia about security at there airports, that couple should have faced the same issue, maybe even worse.

Posted by Eric on June 16, 2013 12:00

Editor Comment:

The difference is, the holidaymakers were not trying to elude the authorities. It was the fault of the airline and the airport labyrinth. A little common sense is what was required by Immigration when the couple returned of their own free will, Eric. You seem to miss the point entirely. And what happened to the others who missed their visa stamps? Were they arrested, questioned at length, charged and fined? You are in your own odd world. We'd prefer to stay in one where justice matters, and where honesty is rewarded.


I agree with other commentors above. When coming in from international at PIA if a single airport staff person of the dozen or so it requires is out of place for a few seconds, half the passengers having to navigate the labyrinth after de-boarding would certainly get lost.

Posted by NomadJoe on June 16, 2013 12:13


I can understand mistakes can happen on both sides. What I can't understand, is the terrible attitude of the Thai authorities. Once again, someone had lost face and doesn't even have the decency to apologise.

Posted by Ron on June 16, 2013 14:14


Absolutely unbeliveble how a Governor can turn a mistake like this to something related to Drugs... Shame on u..... shame shame shame...

Posted by Frog on June 16, 2013 16:27


Those excuses are ridiculous these guys did it by accident because it is so easy, how many wanted people and terrorists who actually want to get in without being seen can get in this way

Posted by Michael on June 16, 2013 16:31


I am not in my own odd world, I just read your reports and share my opinion.
My comments where shared by others in previous articles regarding this case , why is the editor reacting to the same person in an agressive way ? We are in a free world and we are all free to have our opinion on an event, as an editor you should respect everybody his meaning and be unpartial and report in a neutral way the story. I never said that this people did it on purpose, but if you follow the letter of the law they are wrong. The judge followed the Thai law by the letter. Now that the law was followed everybody is screaming. I agree that it should have had been solved in a more diplomatic way thats for sure. Who says that the others where not fined ? You not investigated that matter properly.
That couple should have asked proper assistance to there embassy, this seems also something who not happened properly.
Another interesting subject : Why the French goverment not interfered and asked for official appologize ?

Posted by Eric on June 17, 2013 08:27

Editor Comment:

At least you've shaken off your comparisons will illegal immigrants in Lille and terrorists in the US, Eric. It appears you've come to your senses. I hope it lasts. I don't ''react aggressively'' but I certainly challenge illogical commenters who miss the point. The couple did ask for assistance and were given it. I am sorry to bore you, but there will be more to report. We don't report in a ''neutral way.'' We prefer to report accurately and without bias. I don't intend to waste more time on your bias and your guesswork.


Wow, the future of Phuket is not looking very bright if the governor simply wave this off as a not a big deal, THB 2000 only....
Is anything actually improving in Phuket???

Posted by May on June 17, 2013 11:10

Editor Comment:

Each of the adults was fined 2000 baht, we have learned. So the total is 4000 baht. Plus time under arrest, plus time waiting for a court appearance that did not eventuate, an appearance where the couple wished to tell their side of the story. And still no apology, just excuses.

Improvements: There's a lot more talking on Phuket about Phuket's problems.


On the upside for the French tourists, they had a legal adventure in Thailand for only 4000 Baht. One they can talk a lot about. Immigration should offer this as special tour. Airport security my a...

Posted by Lena on June 17, 2013 15:16


I mean, come on... Immigration acted so harsh, because it was a known drug mule flight no.? And the people just walked off the airport? Muuahahaahaaa... Customs will not have liked that one....

Do officals think before they report to the governor? Or is insinuating darkness enough to shut up the Phuket press? Would have been the first honest mule couple, coming back for immigration stamp... muuahahahahahahaaaa... And what about the other 8 mules? Hello?

Posted by Lena on June 17, 2013 15:40


It seems to me that every time Phuket authorities open their mouth to talk about this issue, they find new ways to make it worse, rub in the appalling attitude and contempt they hold towards visitors.

If this particular flight is known to carry drug mules, how come customs and immigration were so "well" prepared for it that 8 passengers could just bypass them all ?

The statements made by the Governor make no sense whatsoever and only show how ridiculous the Thai way of Saving Face at all cost really is.

Future visitors to Phuket, take notice.

Posted by ThaiMike on June 19, 2013 10:16

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