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Airport raid nets $180,000

Airport raid nets $180,000

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

shop.

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.

In the

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.

The

manageress, a Thai, said she was seduced into delaying closing the shop by the

two men, convinced they were going to buy expensive items.

She said:

"They really looked like passengers - nice shirts, shoes and ties. We didn't

suspect anything."

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

crime.

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.

Ing Bora,

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

time.

"The police have been ordered to work only during flight

activities, which, in the afternoon, is from 2 pm to 5 pm.

"The airport

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.

He said:

"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."

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