Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bangkok orders crackdown on airport gangs -23 July, 2009

BANGKOK - A major police crackdown on illegal taxis and unlicensed guides is to start next week at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, the Airports of Thailand has warned.

The move came after Transport Minister Sohpon Zarum made an inspection trip to the airport and ordered the AoT to step up measures to prevent extortion gangs preying on international air passengers.

The Bangkok Post reports that organised gangs are allegedly operating from duty-free shops, and are “cheating tens of thousands of baht from foreign tourists”.

The reports claim that the gangs, apparently operating in collusion with shop employees and rogue policemen, intimidate and browbeat accused foreign shoplifters and thieves into paying large "fines" in order to escape lengthy incarceration and trial and return to their own countries.

At least one European country has warned its citizens not to shop in the duty-free area of Suvarnabhumi at all, and the alleged cheating has been featured in reports by the BBC, among others.

The duty-free scams are in addition to the longtime Bangkok airport problems of so-called "black-licence taxis" which have no authorisation to carry passengers, and airport touts who try to steer arriving tourists to unwanted hotels and shady businesses.

One British couple, accused of shoplifting but released after five days without charges being laid, are currently at the centre of bribery accusations involving airport police.


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