August 26, 2008

Thai Ex-Senator Sues Airline, Airport for Not Screening Passengers for Weapons

Text of report in English by Thai newspaper Bangkok Post website on 26 August

[Report by Post Reporters: "Chirmsak sues Nok Air, says its security lax"]

Former Bangkok senator Chirmsak Pinthong yesterday sued the director of Nakhon Si Thammarat provincial airport and the budget airline Nok Air for negligence over alleged lax security. The former senator's suit was the first to be filed with the newly-established Consumer Court set up under the 2008 Consumer Case Procedures Act which took effect on Aug 23.

The law provides a fast-track legal process for people who claim they have been affected by substandard products, services and medical treatment.

Affected people can file charges against providers of substandard goods or services at provincial courts.

The suit named the director of the Nakhon Si Thammarat provincial airport and Nok Air, an affiliate of Thai Airways, as first and second defendants.

Mr Chirmsak said he boarded a Nok Air flight from the southern province to Bangkok on Aug 16. When he was about to board the flight, he found that check-in staff of Nok Air had not searched passengers for weapons. He was told by a female staff member that the airline's scanner detectors had been borrowed by Walailak University.

"I told the staff member that such [lax security measures] would put our lives at high risk. That female staff member said I had to take risks today [Aug 16]. I didn't feel good and was worried as there were 150 passengers on board the flight. If someone had hidden explosives, we would have died en masse," Mr Chirmsak said.

"This is a case of negligence and a reckless act that might cause serious damage to the lives and property of passengers. I decided to bring the case to the court's attention," said Mr Chirmsak.

He said the 2008 Consumer Case Procedures Act benefited consumers as it gave them the right to file complaints about poor services and unfair contracts. Complainants are not required to pay court fees.

Chaisak Angsuwan, the director-general of the Civil Aviation Department, yesterday said he had asked Nakhon Si Thammarat provincial airport about the alleged lax security measures and was told that Walailak University had borrowed its walk-through metal detector for use during its graduation ceremony.

However, the airport had hand-held scanners which were used to scan passengers before boarding the plane.

Mr Chaisak said he had reprimanded the airport about its lax security and asked it to assign more importance to its security system.

Nok Air executive vice-president Sehapan Chumsai yesterday said the airline would begin an inquiry into the matter.

While consumer advocates have hailed the legislation as providing new hope for consumers, many in the medical profession are worried the law will lead to lawsuits against them mushrooming.

They said the legislation gives consumers the right to complain about poor services, including medical services at clinics, drug stores and private hospitals.

However, Ampol Chindawattana, secretary-general of the National Health Committee, said the legislation would not cover public services provided free of charge such as mobile medical unit services.

Originally published by Bangkok Post website, Bangkok, in English 26 Aug 08.

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