Thai police said Sunday they were investigating a “passport ring” in Phuket, as details emerged of bookings made in Thailand with stolen European passports for the vanished Malaysia Airlines flight, the Star reported (source).
Two European names – Christian Kozel, an Austrian, and Luigi Maraldi of Italy – were listed on the passenger manifest of the flight MH370, but neither man boarded the plane. Both had their passports stolen in Thailand over the past two years. Malaysia has launched a terror probe investigating the suspect passengers and the United States has sent in the FBI to assist.
Meanwhile, Interpol has expressed regret that few member countries systematically search its database to determine whether a passenger is using a stolen or lost travel document to board a plane.
“If Malaysia Airlines and all airlines worldwide were able to check the passport details of prospective passengers against our database, then we would not have to speculate whether stolen passports were used by terrorists to board MH370,” said its secretary-general Ronald Noble in a statement posted on the organisation’s website.
Earlier, in 2013, Thai police said Phuket is engulfed with “Mafia Crime Rings.” While announcing new crime figures for the island then, police chief Maj-Gen Chote Chawanwiwat called for 5,000 more officers to help protect tourists from what local news sites describe as “mafia-style” crime. The government has called for a tightening of security in order to protect the valuable tourism industry there. New “safety zones” have now been set up around the resort.
Tom Vater, Telegraph Travel’s expert in Bangkok, said that while Thailand remains a safe and attractive destination overall, visitors to Phuket should take great care. “Phuket has more than its fair share of troubles,” he said, “from aggressive taxi drivers, to jet ski operators looking to scam tourists, bag snatchers and young disenfranchised kids out to cause trouble.
“Much of the island is run by mafias and the police are not always sympathetic to foreigners’ complaints. Single female travelers are advised to be vigilant while out at night, as sexual assaults on foreigners in Thailand are on the rise.”
The crime figures in Phuket, for 2012, revealed that seven ex-pats have been murdered in the resort since 2010 and that last year, foreigners were the victims of two rapes, 13 violent crimes, 13 attempted robberies and 46 cases of fraud. In the same year, 193 foreigners were also arrested for drinks, drugs and drink driving offences. The biggest cause of death to foreigners in the resort was drowning however, with eight deaths in 2012.