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B30mn coke bust at Phuket Airport

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B30mn coke bust at Phuket Airport | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: Six kilograms of cocaine were seized by officers in two separate airport arrests this week. The suspects, a Swiss man and a Thai woman, face a maximum penalty of death under Thai law for smuggling of Category 2 narcotics.

Swiss national Peter Balmer, 47, was arrested on Monday with possession and intent to smuggle 4 kg of cocaine at Phuket International Airport. To avoid detection, the contraband was in the form of black strips known as “black cocaine”, an intentionally adulterated form used to evade detection. It is then purified after it reaches its intended destination.

In the second bust, which occurred about 11pm Tuesday night, Sa Kaeo resident Pimpisa “Ja” Piangyotha, 39, was nabbed by officers with two kilos of pure cocaine in her luggage when she arrived for a Bangkok-bound flight.

Lt Col Prawit Engchuan of Phuket City Police said officers were tipped off by an unnamed informant that a large drug shipment from South America was expected to move through the airport.

Phuket City Police then coordinated with airport immigration, customs officers, and Thachatchai Police, all of whom were ordered on high alert, he said.

At this morning’s press conference at Phuket City Police Station, Phuket Provincial Police Commander Pekad Tantipong said investigators believed both suspects were part of the same network.

Balmer and Pimpisa denied this, saying they had never met before.

Balmer also told the PhuketGazette he didn’t know that the black material he was carrying was cocaine until the police told him.

About 4pm on Monday, Balmer arrived at Phuket Airport. After passing through immigration and collecting his luggage at a baggage carousel, he proceeded to Customs clearance, police said.

When Customs officers examined his luggage with a scanning device, they became suspicious. After a thorough inspection of the bag, officers discovered two black sheets, each weighing 2 kilograms, concealed inside the luggage lining. It was later determined to be “black cocaine”.

Miss Pimpisa also said she was unaware of the drugs found in her possession, claiming that a man in Brazil had placed the drugs into her luggage without her knowledge.

The unnamed man was a friend of a black foreign man in Bangkok named “Mike,” with whom she had been acquainted for about six months but had little contact with over that period.

Despite this, Mike had sponsored her with a two-week “holiday” to Brazil, covering all of her expenses and giving her US$2,000 in cash, she said.

On the day of her return, Mike’s Brazilian friend placed a bag into her luggage, saying it was to be delivered to Mike.

Officers said the drugs in the two busts have a combined wholesale value of 18 million baht in Thailand.

The street value could run as high as 30 million baht, they added.

During the ensuing investigation, Balmer told police he had been living in Thailand for 4 or 5 years.

He had been supporting a Thai wife in Nakhon Ratchasima on a government disability pension he received from a carpentry accident, he said.

When the Swiss government canceled his pension 3 months ago, he became desperate for funds to cover overhead costs of his wife’s restaurant there.

He admitted he was hired by a man of African decent in Bangkok who agreed to pay him 200,000 baht (US$6,000) to bring a piece of luggage to Thailand from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where he claims the deal took place.

Balmer told the Gazette that he was advised to fly from Santa Cruz to the Bolivian capital of La Paz, then to Phuket via Sao Paolo, Dubai and Kuala Lampur.

He had yet to be contacted by Swiss Embassy officials, he added.

He will be held at Thachatchai Police Station while the legal case against him is processed, police said.

— Atchaa Khamlo & Steven Layne

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Phuket

Phuket’s Soi Dog Foundation opens Humane Education Centre at Mai Khao shelter

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Phuket’s Soi Dog Foundation opens Humane Education Centre at Mai Khao shelter | The Thaiger

The Soi Dog Foundation has officially opened its Humane Education Centre, the first of its kind in Thailand dedicated to the welfare of stray animals. The centre, located at the Soi Dog shelter in northern Phuket, forms part of the foundation’s Humane Education program. Rolled out in 2017, the program sees a team visit Thai schools to teach the next generation the basic principles of animal welfare and promote empathetic attitudes towards both owned pets and free-roaming strays.

The program has reached a total of 15,058 students and 861 teachers to date. With a dedicated classroom as well as educational tools and resources now on site at the shelter, Soi Dog will be able to expand the programme and reach an even greater number of young minds.

Co-founder and president of Soi Dog Foundation International John Dalley said, “The cornerstones of what we do – what I believe very firmly are the answers to the stray dog problem throughout Asia – are large-scale sterilisation of stray dogs and cats and education of, particularly, the next generation.

“We see all the time the problems that are being caused through us not respecting the environment and not respecting the other animals with whom we share this planet. That’s why education is so important.”

John also thanked the supporters and donors who made the construction of the centre possible. After cutting the ribbon, the students filed into the brand-new facility for the very first on-site class – a fun and interactive hour of roleplaying, brainstorming and problem solving.

Humane Education Manager Nuttawut “Film” Kumngern. said… “We want to encourage kindness toward animals, especially free-roaming dogs and cats, and teach youngsters to be responsible pet owners. This will sustainably reduce animal cruelty and pet abandonment.”

“We hope to one day see animal welfare incorporated into the curriculum in Thai schools, and our education centre is a great start.”

Soi Dog is ready to welcome school groups from Phuket and other provinces to the centre which can accommodate up to 40 students at any one time. Schools interested in participating are encouraged to email film@soidog.org

Phuket's Soi Dog Foundation opens Humane Education Centre at Mai Khao shelter | News by The ThaigerPhuket's Soi Dog Foundation opens Humane Education Centre at Mai Khao shelter | News by The Thaiger

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International Schools

Police have yet to investigate illegal hiring of foreign teachers at international school in Phuket

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Police have yet to investigate illegal hiring of foreign teachers at international school in Phuket | The Thaiger

Chalong police in Phuket say they have yet to start investigating the illegal hiring of foreign teachers at an international school in Rawai, south of the island. Palm House International School allegedly hired foreign teachers illegally in which 2 were arrested by Phuket Immigration police on November 4.

Somkiet Sarasin, the leading investigator of the case, says the 2 Brits were informed that police were processing a charge of working illegally in the country against them, in which both denied the charges. Somkiet says the 2 were released on bail, but did not confirm the amount of bail that was set by the police.

“They are still staying in Thailand. I am not worried. I have their passports. I am not available to explain [any details] because the investigation is still ongoing.”

“This is normal for an investigation when the suspects deny the charge against them. I have to check more information against their claims. This case will probably be concluded next month.”

However, the investigation has yet to begin, with Somkiet saying he has not even questioned the owner of the school, despite his claims the case would be finished next month.

“The investigation into the school will take time. The investigation into the two British people must be finished first.”

Such allegations of foreign teachers working illegally have recently been in the news after Sarasas Witaed Sainoi Pitiyakarn School, in the central province of Nonthaburi, saw 7 foreign teachers probed for being hired illegally. That school, along with others in its private network, made nationwide news after CCTV caught a Thai teacher hitting, pushing and dragging a young student in the classroom. Such widespread violence against students has long been a sad component of many Thai schools, in which some of the teachers are unqualified and unlicensed to teach, but are hired anyway.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Tourism

Phuket sees 300 million baht boost over long holiday weekend

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Phuket sees 300 million baht boost over long holiday weekend | The Thaiger

The Tourism Authority of Thailand says that Phuket has received a much-needed 300 million baht boost over the 4 day long weekend with around 54,000 tourists flocking to the island from last Thursday through to yesterday.

Phuket Office Director Nanthasiri Ronnasiri, reports that the average expenditure per visitor was about 5,500 baht, which was higher than the average spend for a Thai tourist to Phuket 2 years ago. She also noted that random checks on hotels showed that occupancy rates climbed to about 35%, with most guests staying 2 nights. But most of Phuket’s hotels remain closed.

Nanthasiri also says that many of the tourists concentrated themselves in the Phuket Old Town area, especially around Thalang Road, Phang Nga Road, and Dibuk Road in order to enjoy at the Sino-Portuguese shophouse architecture and historical locations. In fact much of Phuket Town, including its many markets and alley eateries, were doing roaring business, The Thaiger can vouch for the heavy traffic, on the roads and footpaths, over the past 4 days.

“This special holiday made Phuket tourism livelier, even though it was not as same as the situation before the Covid-19 pandemic.”

In fact, despite the welcome surge of visitors, it was still a long, long way from its previous tourist levels with much of the west coast, which has largely catered for the international tourist traffic, was still very quiet in places like Patong, Kata and Karon.

Phuket wasnt the only destination that has profited off of the long weekend as Chiang Mai saw droves of Thai tourists visiting its Royal Park Rajapruek as well as the northern city’s other nearby national parks and tourist areas. Visitors came from all over to see the blossoming of flowers in a beautiful display at the park as well as enjoying the air-purifying flowers as they relaxed. Tourists were able to rent a bicycle for 60 baht if they wanted to exercise while taking in the scenery and could also pay a visit to the orchid greenhouse, which hosts a variety of orchids in bloom. TripAdvisor recommends to set aside 2 hours to visit the park.

Next holiday weekend, on November 27 and 28, Pattaya is expected to get a tourism boost as its annual fireworks festivalis set to bring in travellers who have taken advantage of package deals offered by some beachside hotels. Such packages were offered for advance bookings, where holidaymakers could view the firework shows on the rooftops of their hotels. The firework displays are said to be long with breaks of entertainment-packed shows, featuring live music and student bands amongst others.

Phuket sees 300 million baht boost over long holiday weekend | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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