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Foreign diver deported following eco-vandalism arrest off Koh Pha Ngan

Caitlin Ashworth

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PHOTO: Nation Thailand

Thai Immigration deported a foreign diver who was arrested in September for disturbing marine wildlife off Koh Pha Ngan. Photos and videos of himself and another diver holding, poking and tickling sea creatures were posted on Facebook, leading to their arrest.

Attila Ott, a Hungarian national and owner of the island’s Pink Panther Scuba Dive Club, was deported after his visa was revoked, according to director general of marine and coastal resources, Sophon Thongdee.

Both Attila and the other diver, Dutch-Italian Francesco Simonetti, were arrested on September 1 for disturbing wildlife in a protected area. Simonetti, who worked at the Barracuda restaurant on the island, is still in the country. He posted a 50,000 baht bail and lodged an appeal with the Immigration Bureau.

Surat Thani governor Witchawut Jinto says he is urging authorities to quickly close the case. In the future, tourists who visit the Surat Thani islands – Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao – will be warned not to disturb the environment.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

 

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41 Comments

41 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 5:23 pm

    Is this the place where Thai tourist trip boats smashed all the coral by dropping anchors?

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 5:38 pm

      No, that’s Maya Bay on Phi Phi, closed/off limits for five years.

      Posting it on facebook, and making it clear where they were, these two should be deported for stupidity.

    • Avatar

      Slugger

      Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 5:47 pm

      Nice try though.

      At least its the Thais coral to smash.

      • Avatar

        Toldi

        Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 9:18 pm

        Acccording to his facebook he is currently in a quarantine hotel in Bangkok

    • Avatar

      Mike

      Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 7:48 pm

      That’s every single dive site in the country since the 1970’s.

    • Avatar

      RA

      Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 9:29 am

      It’s not only Maya Bay as Issan John professes, again without facts. It happens everywhere, I’ve personally witnessed it while diving. Speed boat operators drop anchor anywhere they please. While diving in Bungalow Bay on Racha Yai I witness a operator drop anchor on the coral. I moved the anchor about 5 meters to the sand. The operator lifted the anchor and then tried to drop it on me, missing slightly. I went up to say something and he pulled a knife. The conversation ended at that point.

      Rarely do the tour boat operators drop anchor in Maya Bay. They just drive up on the beach. The most damage there is done by the tourist walking on the coral. Vendors sell booties which makes it possible to walk on the coral as shown on a DW documentary on the area.

      • Avatar

        Toby Andrews

        Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 11:27 am

        Thai Cants!

      • Avatar

        Toby Andrews

        Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 11:30 am

        RA you should have stuck your harpoon in the bottom of his boat.
        Sink the bar steward.

      • Avatar

        Issan John

        Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 1:16 pm

        I never suggested it was “only Maya bay”, however that’s the only one that has been highlighted in the media.

        That happens to be “fact”, unlike your comment which is anecdotal and, as far as “happens everywhere” goes clearly untrue.

        As for Maya Bay and the boats, vendors, booties and tourists, it’s been closed since mid-2018 and will be closed at least into next year, which amply demonstrates the veracity of pretty much everything you write – pure fantasy.

  2. Avatar

    Anonymous

    Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 5:32 pm

    Seem very excessive. I guess they just wanted took his shop and all his belongings.

    I can understand you wanna protect the submarine life but if it was his first failure ,a fine and a big warning would have been far enough. Revoked visa, lost shop and surely a lot belongings for the supposed “We want protect submarine life”, I don’t believe it.

    Tourist will be warn… Yeah we can see since many years you really want protect the wild. Full moon party at Ko Phangan, you don’t need to dive to damage the life.

    And as a diver, this guy surely gather lot of trash while diving…

    This kind of story should make aware of people who think they can own a shop here or anything else.

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 1:20 pm

      He was given a 10,000 baht fine – nothing else.

      Anything from Immigration was down to his breaking immigration law, NOT “tickling fish”.

      • Avatar

        Frank Leboeuf

        Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 2:22 pm

        Thanks for clear that up – this important fact should made clear in the article itself, which reads that he was “deported after his visa was revoked” according to the “director general of marine and coastal resources”, which leads us readers to deduct that this was part of the penalty.
        Misleading and polarising…

        It’s a good thing the deportation was unrelated.
        A 10K fine is quite moderate (it’s 2K for smoking in the national parks if I’m not mistaken) – it would have been couple with the suspension of a licence to operate in quite a few places…

        • Avatar

          Issan John

          Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 3:36 pm

          It was clear in the original / source article.

          • Avatar

            Frank Leboeuf

            Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 4:29 pm

            Maybe, but too bad it isn’t in the copy we’re responding to here.

            Not too sure what to make of this decision to leave this crucial part of information out to be honest…

            Anyway a 10K fine is more than normal.
            If deportation was actually part of the penalty, it would have been harsh, but also understandable, especially if the visa/work permit was linked to running this dive operation – it’s quite common to lose operating licences for environmental infractions elsewhere.

            Too bad for them it caught up with them for other loose ends…

  3. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 6:03 pm

    Oh my mistake. It seems a bit harsh though, being deported for tickling fish.

    • Avatar

      Alte Ledertasche

      Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 7:18 pm

      Its ridiculous but thats Land of Scam.

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 9:04 pm

      He was deported by Thai Immigration, nothing directly to do with any court appearance or fish tickling.

      Immigration probably looked into his work permit and dive school, which evidently employs several farangs as dive instructors, and his bar, and found fault there.

      Stupid to draw attention to himself unnecessarily, putting and end to his time here and a good business.

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 9:10 pm

      Sorry, I should have added that the penalty from the court for the fish tickling was a 10,000 baht fine, nothing more.

      The deportation was a separate issue, purely down to his immigration status which Thai immigration could hardly have ignored once he drew attention to himself.

      • Avatar

        Frank Leboeuf

        Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 9:03 am

        That does make more sense then, if the deportation was unrelated to the fish tickling.

        A 10K fine sounds reasonable, especially given the bad publicity this would have brought.

        • Avatar

          Toby Andrews

          Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 11:25 am

          No I disagree. A B10000 fine for tickling fish is ludicrous!
          If a fellow cannot go out and tickle a few fish without breaking Thai law, this country has reached a new low.
          Still, these peasants can probably go lower yet in their grubby greedy pursuit of looting the foreigners.

          • Avatar

            Frank Leboeuf

            Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 1:12 pm

            I don’t think it is ridiculous, a 10K is quite cheap actually.

            In French National Parks for instance, on top of a fine, he would have been given had his licence to operate in the National Park temporarily revoked, usually 30 days, with a stark warning that it would be fully revoked on the next offence.

            10K is peanuts, 2/3 Open Water courses, a couple of fun-diving customers…

  4. Avatar

    Fabian

    Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 7:01 pm

    It’s good they do that. But since the tourists have gone a lot of fishing is going on around popular dive sites in Phuket/Krabi. Fishing cages near or on top of reefs, and in the King Cruiser Wreck near Phi Phi islands. It causes a lot of damage but the marine police is nowhere to be found.

    • Avatar

      Frank Leboeuf

      Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 9:00 am

      Yes, absolutely. I think most people who know the diving industry in Thailand would welcome strict enforcement of existing standards and laws, but with some coherence.

      Deporting a foreigner for handling marine life while letting the fishing fleets do heavier damage on a regular basis, and allowing multiple other infractions, pollution etc, is simply not giving a good image of the authorities that are, or should be involved.

      • Avatar

        Issan John

        Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 1:22 pm

        He wasn’t deported “for handling marine life”.

        • Avatar

          Frank Leboeuf

          Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 2:15 pm

          Yes, I saw your correction since I’d posted this.

          10K is a normal fine, actually on the low side compared to what he would have faced for similar behaviour in other places. In France for instance, on top of the fine his licence to operate in the national park would have been suspended temporarily (30 days or so, tough in high season…), and definitively for a repeat offense.

          !0K is peanuts, it’s what dive operations cherge for a couple of courses or bringing a few customers fun diving for a day…

          • Avatar

            Issan John

            Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 3:40 pm

            Thanks for applying some common sense here, Frank – few here manage to get off the outrage bus once they’ve jumped on and it’s up and running!

  5. Avatar

    James Pate

    Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 7:05 pm

    Just plain stupid. He’s a diving professional. Maybe we could forgive an ignorant tourist. Posting it? Double stupid!

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 1:28 pm

      Exactly – it doesn’t get much more stupid.

      The two of them were living their dream lives, with successful businesses which had 5* reviews, then they screwed it up.

      They’ve no-one to blame but themselves but somehow some commenting here twist the facts to blame “the Thais”.

      Par for the course.

  6. Avatar

    Frank Leboeuf

    Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 7:14 pm

    meanwhile on Netflix, a guy fondles his “Octopus Teacher” and is a big hit…

    They clearly did wrong, and deserved to be made an example, like the idiots who drove a scooter into Balinese waters for instagram likes last week.
    Deportation is probably a little over the top, but if they wanted to make an example, why not, guy owns and runs a dive shop, not exactly role model behaviour.

    Too bad the Thai system is not so reactive when it comes to major infractions to national parks rules commited on a daily basis in front of national park rangers…

    An example? In the Similan and Surin National Parks, rules stipulate that divers should be brought to the dive sites using dinghies (smaller craft), and that large boats a not allowed to manoeuvre near the dive site for basic safety reasons.
    Take a dive trip and you’ll see maybe two or three boats using dinghies, the rest vomitting divers onto the dive sites directly fron the big boats out of pure laziness. We have pictures, videos, alas… Same goes for fishing infractions and many, oh so many more…

    But yeah, don’t touch marine life, please.

  7. Avatar

    Mike

    Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 8:02 pm

    Thai hypocrisy! Hope the divers can set up somewhere some country without such bullshit double standards

  8. Avatar

    Ray

    Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 9:05 pm

    Perhaps hid first name was working against him.

  9. Avatar

    Roger C

    Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 9:13 pm

    Deportation seems a bit extreme.

  10. Avatar

    Issan John

    Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 11:36 pm

    Francesco’s restaurant, Il Barracuda, has some seriously good reviews on TripAdvisor but unfortunately they also make it clear that he wasn’t just working there as a chef but was also the owner and catching his own fish locally every day on his dives.

    Immigration may take a dimmer view than his customers.

  11. Avatar

    Ian

    Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 2:51 am

    Just shows you how fragile your status is in Thailand he’s been stupid but to take his business and deport very extreme but who can guess this country this is why I won’t invest 1 baht in it .just come enjoy as long as i can ,any farang with business property ECT you live on a knife edge everyday your only as good as that visa and that’s fragile if you upset the wrong people and they want farang to invest what a joke

  12. Avatar

    Fabian

    Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 12:08 pm

    You might say deportation is a bit extreme. But mr. Ott is not just a diver, he is a scuba shop owner. While posting pictures of harassing sea creatures he sets a very bad example. Touching marine life can be dangerous for the creature as well as for the diver. Most dive companies I know will emphasize to their customers that they should leave the marine life alone and that they can risk a penalty if they don’t. Mr. Ott should be very well aware of the risks of disrespecting the marine life.

  13. Avatar

    harry1

    Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 12:26 pm

    so he get deported and loses his diving business for tickling a fish,yet sea captains anchor on coral,run over dolphin and swimmers,crash into each other,make a wai and all is forgiven ?

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 3:51 pm

      God almighty – he DIDN’T “get deported and loses his diving business for tickling a fish”. 🙁

      He was deported for breaking immigration law, which Immigration had previously turned a blind eye to although he plastered it all over YouTube and his website and it’s unavoidably clear from TripAdvisor.

      Under the circumstances, once he’d hit the media with his stupudity, even Thai Immigration couldn’t turn a blind eye any more.

      If he’d been doing the same thing in the West he’d have been slung out and those complaining about it here would have been the the first to applaud it.

  14. Avatar

    Issan John

    Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 1:54 pm

    Of course it’s “fragile” if you break immigration law and do so quite so blatantly!

    … of course you “live on a knife edge” if you not only break immigration law but you do so not just openly but you splash what you’re doing all over the internet.

    All Immigration had to do once their attention had been drawn to it was to look at his website, the videos he made and posted on YouTube himself, and TripAdvisor.

    How could they continue to turn a blind eye under those circumstances?

    However good his business was (and it was evidently well run) it was 100% illegal under Immigration law, and while they’d let him get away with it before (there’s no way they could not have known) how could they continue to do so once it was in the media spotlight?

    If he’d done the same thing anywhere in the West, running a business illegally and been caught, he’d have been deported in just the same way.

  15. Avatar

    Preesy Chepuce

    Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 2:41 pm

    I think what people object to is the parading of someone like a prize marlin, whatever the facts of the case are, it undermines investor confidence in the place. It would be better PR to let people do some kind of community work to redeem themselves. It’d also be better PR to be prosecuting locals who damage the environment. As you can see from this story, people don’t read, and go away feeling like there are double standards and that foreigners aren’t welcome etc… whilst that may not be true, that’s what people feel, and what people feel tends to translate into economics.

  16. Avatar

    Bunga

    Friday, December 18, 2020 at 2:06 am

    Well done Thailand.
    Such persons do not belong there, canceling his Visa and take his shop was the right thing.
    To all the others who like to touch, be warned….

  17. Avatar

    Gene

    Wednesday, June 9, 2021 at 3:40 pm

    I suppose next they’ll start fining for tickling the bar girls.

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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