T OP policemen urged a review of security at Pochentong airport after two robbers
made off with an estimated $180,000 in cash and jewelry from the duty free
Glaring loopholes in how the airport is policed were exposed by the
raid on the shop, a concession run by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
The two men, both well-dressed Cambodians in their twenties, most likely
passed through both customs and passport checkpoints to get into the immigration
area, where the shop is situated.
Frequent travellers point out that in
the airport's informal atmosphere some entrances are not properly policed and
the security gaps have been exacerbated by refurbishment work.
shop they posed as wealthy incoming passengers on the final flight of the day, a
Thai Airways flight from Bangkok, said the manageress, who declined to be named.
It is possible for incoming passengers to take a circuitous route from the
arrivals hall into the departure hall, where the shop is, purchase items and
then return to the arrivals hall for immigration.
The raiders browsed
around while the remaining passengers left the terminal building and with them
the Border Police, who are chiefly responsible for airport security.
manageress, a Thai, said she was seduced into delaying closing the shop by the
two men, convinced they were going to buy expensive items.
"They really looked like passengers - nice shirts, shoes and ties. We didn't
Instead at 4.30 pm one pulled out a pistol with a
silencer and ordered the seven staff into a corner while the second filled an
empty suitcase with jewelry, diamonds and cash.
The bandits then locked
the staff inside the shop, and made off with the loot.
It took 90
minutes for them to be released when their cries were heard by a woman airport
worker. The manageress said it was a further two hours before police were on the
scene. She said she finally had to take a car downtown to report the
A Border Police source at the airport said Civil Aviation
Department guards, who are in charge of security when flights are not running,
had all gone off to eat when the raid occurred.
The manageress said:
"It's very bad, no police at this airport, we tried calling for help from
anyone, but nobody came.
"This is an international airport, the police
should have strong security here, it is very important, if the security is like
this, nobody will come to this country."
Police denied they were slow to
react, saying the manageress delayed informing them.
Deputy-Chief of the Crime Department at the Ministry of Security is leading the
hunt for the bandits. He said he will ask the government if Border Police can be
stationed at the airport round the clock.
But he also said: "The store
manageress is partially to blame because the shop was operating after closing
"The police have been ordered to work only during flight
activities, which, in the afternoon, is from 2 pm to 5 pm.
should be policed a 24-hours a day, but we don't know at this stage how much the
government plans to increase security."
Pong Polark, chief of Border
Police at the airport, refused to accept the blame for the bandits getting
through the checkpoints into the shop.
He said:"Any changes don't depend
on me, it is up to high officials and ministers."
Polark pointed out the
duty free shop is in a temporary location while refurbishing work is being
carried out and in two months will be moving back behind a further checkpoint
which has a metal detector capable of spotting guns.
But he added he
wanted to call a meeting of all security agencies at the airport to investigate
what went wrong and propose changes.
A Ministry of Security source told
the Post that the Department of Civil Aviation rents out the check point at the
airport's frontage to a private company to run as a business.
"It is very bad, the company charge passengers a fee to pass through the check
point, people arriving on a bike are charged 200 riel, and if they arrive in a
car they pay 1,000 riel."