Connect with us

Phuket

Raging Phuket black market passport trade

Legacy Phuket Gazette

Published

 on 

image
image

PHUKET: Police have admitted they are powerless to prevent motorcycle and car rental operators from holding foreign tourists’ passports as collateral against potential damage to rented vehicles.

The news comes as the island’s top police officers try to stymie the fallout from international news reports branding Phuket a key source for stolen passports in the wake of the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 last Saturday (story here).

Two men, Iranian nationals believed to be asylum seekers heading to Europe via Beijing, boarded the flight using passports stolen in Phuket (story here).

One of the passports was taken from a massage salon in Patong that was holding the essential travel document as collateral (story here).

“Something needs to be done, especially after learning that these two passports were used to board the plane,” Phuket Provincial Police Deputy Commander Arayapan Pukbuakao said on Wednesday.

“We are looking into what measures we can take, but as far as I know, there is no law in Thailand prohibiting foreigners from handing his or her own passport to another person to hold as per their own agreement.”

Col Arayapan said his officers will launch a campaign calling for rental vehicle operators to refrain from holding passports.

“They must understand that every passport remains the property of the government that issued it,” he explained.

Such campaigns have been held time and again in Phuket, usually resulting from a collective, concerted push by ambassadors and honorary consuls. Last July, Tourism and Sports Minister Somsak Pureesrisak himself blankly called for an end to the age-old practice of foreigners’ passports being held as a condition of renting motorbikes, cars and jet-skis (story here).

As recently as February 27, following reports of foreigners using a third party’s passport to rent and then steal several motorbikes on Koh Samui and in Krabi, Patong Police Deputy Superintendent Akanit Danpitaksat reminded vehicle rental agents that they were permitted to hold copies of passports, but not the original documents themselves (story here).

Regardless, the practice remains.

Although Col Arayapan confessed his officers were powerless to take action against vehicle operators, he warned that tourists were required by law to carry their passports at all times.

“Foreigners must be aware that if they fail to present their passports to authorities when requested, they could be fined or even deported,” he said.

The pressure to clean up Phuket’s raging stolen passport trade follows Italian tourist Luigi Maraldi having his passport handed over to a man who claimed to be Mr Maraldi’s “partner” while Mr Maraldi was on holiday in Phuket last year.

Mr Maraldi, 37, was listed as a passenger on Flight MH370, but was later found safe at a guesthouse on Nanai Road in Patong, and in possession of a new passport.

Somsak Sornsut, owner of BN Massage in Patong, which was holding Mr Maraldi’s passport last year as collateral on a motorbike he had rented, explained, “We kept his passport at the shop but, if he needed it for any reason, he could come back and borrow it as long as he returned it by the end of the day,” he said.

“My staff called to tell me that a foreigner had come to collect his passport. I asked her who and she said Mr Maraldi. I knew that he always brought his passport back to the shop in time, so I let my staff give it to him.”

The man who took Mr Maraldi’s passport left a Russian woman’s passport in exchange.

“My staff said she showed the man she thought was Mr Maraldi four passports and let him choose his own. The man collected one of them and left another in exchange, saying it belonged to his wife,” Mr Somsak said.

“She did not doubt that it was Mr Maraldi because the man who collected the passport looked similar to the picture.”

Mr Somsak said he had forgotten about the exchange until Mr Maraldi came to the shop asking for his passport.

“I told him that he had already taken his passport and had yet to return it,” said Mr Somsak.

“We then checked all the passports we had and called every customer to ask if they had taken the wrong one. All of them confirmed they had not.”

After waiting three days in case someone returned the passport, Mr Somsak and Mr Maraldi reported it missing to the Patong Police.

Mr Somsak told the Phuket Gazette that he knew holding passports was wrong, but claimed he gave tourists a choice.

“Customers can either leave their passport as a guarantee, or they can leave a copy of their passport and pay a cash deposit. The cash deposit is about 5,000 to 10,000 baht for motorcycles, and about 10,000 to 20,000 baht for cars,” he said.

Regular customers were exempt. “If we know the person well enough, all we require is their passport number,” he said.

Additional reporting by Kritsada Mueanhawong.

— Chutharat Plerin

 

Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forum
🔔 Subscribe to our daily newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram

image

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

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

Follow Thaiger by email:

World7 hours ago

Foreign Ministers of China and Malaysia agree over South China Sea

Bangkok8 hours ago

Burmese woman rescued by DSI after 13 years of forced labor

Protests9 hours ago

Burmese junta drives car into protesters killing 5, injuring dozens

advertiseadvertise
Chon Buri10 hours ago

4 Bang Saen restaurants busted selling alcohol outside Chon Buri Blue Zone

Politics12 hours ago

Woman who told PM Prayut to “retire quickly” claims police visited her

Transport13 hours ago

Boeing’s Max 737 returns to Chinese skies

image
Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Coronavirus (Covid-19)14 hours ago

COVID-19 SUNDAY: 4,704 infections, 27 deaths, provincial totals

Coronavirus (Covid-19)14 hours ago

Omicron variant and surging Covid-19 affect European nations

Coronavirus (Covid-19)15 hours ago

Australia, Asia, and Africa deal with the Covid-19 Omicron variant

Thailand15 hours ago

HM The King returns to Thailand for Father’s Day commemorations

Coronavirus (Covid-19)17 hours ago

Omicron spreads to 38 countries, 10 US states; Remdesivir recalled

Transport18 hours ago

Hua Lamphong “won’t be torn down” | VIDEO

North East18 hours ago

Penis park in Khon Kaen is urging visitors to hug a member

Food19 hours ago

Vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Bangkok | VIDEO

Tourism20 hours ago

Maya Bay on hold, but preparations for an eventual reopening continue | VIDEOS

Coronavirus World5 days ago

Health officials say Omicron probably in the Netherlands prior to South Africa reports

Coronavirus (Covid-19)5 days ago

PM will decide on need for lockdown if and when Omicron found in Thailand

Coronavirus (Covid-19)7 days ago

UPDATE: What we know about “Omicron,” new travel restrictions to Thailand

Coronavirus (Covid-19)5 days ago

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha says PCR tests will remain a requirement for foreign arrivals

Thailand6 days ago

Thailand News Today | Quarantine requirements in Thailand relaxed, Vocal expat deported | Nov 29

Tourism6 days ago

No plans to reverse re-opening, despite Omicron variant – Tourism Ministry

Road deaths7 days ago

Thai man dies by flurry of bullets while going to get 2nd Covid shot

Drugs5 days ago

Men arrested at Bangkok airport for allegedly smuggling drugs valued at 95 million baht

Thailand5 days ago

Possible lockdown, Crypto in Thailand, Transit system improvements | Good Morning Thailand | Ep.143

Visa2 days ago

10-year long term visa scheme takes a step forward, measures approved by PM

Coronavirus (Covid-19)6 days ago

Thailand entry restrictions on African countries in response to Omicron

Bangkok6 days ago

Foreigner claims Bangkok taxi pocketed 1,000 baht for ride down Sukhumvit

Tourism5 days ago

Cha-am permitted to sell alcohol in restaurants from December 1

Coronavirus (Covid-19)7 days ago

Omicron Covid-19 variant isn’t in Thailand, DDC director says

Tourism6 days ago

Tourism officials welcome Czech movie filming in Phuket and Krabi

Thailand3 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism9 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism10 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand10 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism10 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Trending