Cecilia Cornu, 31, was in Phuket for a family holiday in January and was caught by Karon police holding an e-cigarette on Jan 30 whilst on a scooter with her fiancée as her parents and brother followed behind.
Cornu claims she was stopped by four police officers who snatched the e-cigarette and demanded B40,000, which she refused to pay.
She claims she was then arrested and taken to Karon Police Station where officers tried to bully her into paying a bribe.
Cornu was charged, her passport confiscated and a trial date set for Feb 11. Her return flight was scheduled for the following day.
She posted bail of B100,000 and was released the same day pending trial.
On Feb 11 Cornu attended Phuket Provincial Court where she was convicted for the offence and says she was fined B827 (23 euros). She was then sent to Phuket Immigration for what she thought was to collect her passport.
Upon arriving at the immigration office, she was informed that she would be transferred to Bangkok for deportation.
Cornu was then taken to Bangkok where she claims she spent four days and three nights in a prison cell shared with 60 other women in dire conditions where she had to sleep on a hard, dirty floor with no sheets or mattresses before returning home to France.
Cornu claims the ordeal cost her a total of approximately 8,000 euros (B286,000) in legal fees and travel expenses.
Karon Police Chief Col Prasarn Hankotha responded to Cornu’s claims this morning (Feb 27). He told The Phuket News, “Karon police arrested Ms Cécilia Cornu after she was seen using an e-cigarette in Karon on Jan 30.”
“After waiting in the station for many hours while police worked on the case with her lawyer, she asked for bail which was granted at B100,000,” he explained.
“She posted bail and was released the same day. We did not hold her in a cell during her time at the police station.”
Col Prasarn went on to explain that the full bail amount was later returned to Cornu. “We have documents to prove this,” he said.
“Ms Cornu was fined by Phuket Provincial Court on Feb 11 but we do not know the amount as we have not yet received a report from the court.”
Col Prasarn flatly denied Cornu’s claim that his officers demanded a B40,000 bribe. “Karon Police had nothing to do with that,” he asserted.
“We had to confiscate her passport to prevent her from leaving the country before the trial, which is a normal procedure,” he said. “Police then sent her to the Phuket Immigration Office on Feb 11 to process her deportation via Bangkok.”
When asked about claims made by Cornu regarding her expenses, Col Prasarn replied, “We know nothing about 8,000 euros or B286,000. She paid a fine at Phuket Provincial Court and that is all we know.”
The Chief of the Phuket Immigration Office, Col Kathathorn Kumthieng, explained the standard procedure for all foreigners who are transferred to Bangkok for deportation, highlighting that it can take about three or four days to process and all travel and living costs during that time are the responsibility of the deportee.