Phuket airport aims to bring swift justice to shoplifters

PHUKET: Phuket International Airport has established a new policy for dealing with airport shoplifters.

Passengers suspected of shoplifting in the airport who attempt to escape prosecution by boarding their flights will now be asked to deplane to be arrested. However, the arrest and the retrieval of the passenger’s luggage must all be completed within an hour.

The announcement, made on October 29, was in response to a theft at the airport duty-free shop on October 16. Although security staff responded to the theft call within three minutes, by the time they arrived, the tourist had already boarded his flight.

“We tried to board the plane,” said the airport security manager, “but the captain refused to let us on. The airline staff just retrieved the property from the tourist and handed it back to us.”

“The passenger should have been arrested,” he said.

A JetAsia representative at the meeting disagreed, noting that the duty-free manager had declined to file a complaint.

“The duty-free manager didn’t want to make a big deal of it, and just asked for the stolen items to be returned, that’s why the captain didn’t let security on the plane,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter whether the duty-free manager filed a complaint or not,” responded Phuket Tourist Police Inspector Urumporn Koondejsumrit.

“A crime was committed, so the tourist must be arrested,” he said.

Phuket Airport Deputy Director Kanpat Mangkalasiri agreed.

“From now on, if there is a theft in the airport of any kind, and there is enough evidence to make an arrest, then the arrest must be made. If the suspect is a passenger on an airplane, we will remove the suspect and his luggage from the plane.

“However, the arrest must be made within an hour. We have to take into consideration the inconvenience to other passengers,” he added.

“Tah Chat Chai Police, Tourist Police, Immigration Police officers and airport security have all been authorized to arrest suspects who have boarded planes,” he said.

— Saran Mitrarat

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