Bullets-in-bag Israeli given 18 months in Thailand

The bullets-in-bag Israeli police officer was handed an 18-month jail sentence on Friday for arriving in Thailand with a deadly cargo of live ammunition.

Gal Shmuel Farjun was arrested in October at Phuket Airport with two loaded magazines in his suitcase. The 29 year old claimed to have left the bullets in his bag “by accident.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry hoped Farjun would be deported, rather than jailed, given that he has no criminal record in Israel.

The suspect was held under house arrest since being apprehended at Phuket airport on October 22.

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His lawyer planned to appeal against the decision and Farjun was again released to house arrest upon posting bail. It is unclear when his sentence will begin or why a potential foreign terrorist is being held under house arrest. It is hard to imagine that a Thai soldier turning up in Tel Aviv with a bag full of long-forgotten bullets would not receive similar treatment in Israel.

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One of Farjun’s relatives told the Yisrael Hayom daily that his family was surprised by the court ruling.

“Everyone is shocked. Gal is a good soul. The best soul walking in this world. We’re trying to be strong for him and not think about the possibility of him sitting in prison, but it’s hard.”

The relative claimed that drugs were bad, but bullets were not as bad, adding that taking live ammunition on board an international flight could be a mistake.

“This wasn’t a bag of drugs. It was an innocent mistake. He finished his reserve duty, put the bag in storage and forgot that the bullet magazines were in there.”

It is a shock to learn that Israeli soldiers take their ammunition home when their tours of duty are over. Is stock-keeping in the Israeli army is so poor that large amounts of live ammunition are simply lost in the system?

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A similar incident took place in 2019, leading to the brief detention of a pair of Israelis in Egypt and the arrest of another Israeli in Azerbaijan a year earlier. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has warned sleepy-headed tourists fresh from military service to double-check their luggage to ensure there are no stray bullets.

It is hard to sympathise with travellers with a history of recklessly endangering fellow passengers on flights to Thailand. They are typically simple, young men, fresh from serving their homeland. Live ammunition is just part and parcel of their everyday activities. It’s a mistake anyone could make.

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.