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Airport drug-scam allegation puzzles authorities

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: An Australian couple who told the Australian media that their luggage was tampered with and marijuana planted in it as they were leaving Bangkok may not have been telling the truth, the Phuket Gazette has found.

Georgia (not her real name) told an Australian radio station (see here) that she and her boyfriend believe they were being set up to be scammed by corrupt Thai customs officials.

When the couple checked in at Suvarnabhumi International Airport for their flight to Phuket, Georgia said, they learned that their luggage was overweight and were told to either lighten the suitcase or pay a fee.

They decided to leave the airport and go to a nearby hotel to repack the bag, at which point they noticed damage to two of their bags – on one, the lock was missing, and another had been cut through. On closer examination, they say, they found a handful of marijuana in a small bag in one of the suitcases.

After they discovered the marijuana, they contacted the Australian Embassy in Bangkok for advice, Georgia reported to the radio station and also to the Australian national daily, The Age.

The embassy, Georgia said, advised them to throw away the contraband and change their travel plans for their own safety.

However, when contacted by the Gazette today, the Australian Embassy in Bangkok stated that it had no knowledge of the conversation.

“We have not received any reports of this kind. This is the first I have heard of it,” an embassy staffer stated.

“We would not give such advice,” said the staffer, “we would advise them to follow legal processes.”

Further doubt was cast by officials at the airport.

The scenario described by Georgia was unlikely, said Phuket Airport Customs Law Enforcement Sub-Division Chief Chainarong Phutharutsu.

“Generally if there is anything wrong with some luggage, the staff at the x-ray point will discover it and ask us to investigate,” he said.

Chief Chainarong advised on how to protect against such scams.

“To keep your belongings safe, you should lock your luggage before leaving your hotel, since it’s likely to be out of your hands during transit,” he said.

“Keep your bags with you at all times when you travel, or have someone watch them for you, even in the airport area. We always warn passengers not to leave their belongings alone,” he added.

“Don’t trust strangers who offer to help you with your luggage or watch it while you are away,” he warned.

“If you suspect you were scammed, you should report it to us or the Tourist Police,” he said.

— Orawin Narabal


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