12 year-old French girl rescued on Soi Bangla
Tourist Police Volunteers rescued a 12-year-old French girl on Soi Bangla last Thursday (December 8) who had been missing for four months.
Sunday 11 December 2011, 07:35AM
The girl, Manel, who has requested her surname be withheld, was reported as having disappeared after she ran away from her father some four months ago.
Last night, she appeared at a press conference held at the Royal Phawadee Village hotel in Patong to tell The Phuket News her remarkable story.
Manel and her 11-year-old sister Chaima were brought to Phuket by their father in July.
Although it was originally only meant to be a holiday, Manel says her father liked it here and wanted to settle down in Phuket, so he accepted a job offer from a friend who ran a tattoo shop in Patong.
However, not long after they arrived, Manel had an argument with her father that led to her running away.
“He often disappeared for days at a time, not telling us where he was going to,” said Manel.
So Manel went to stay with a teenage Thai friend she just met. During the day, she slept in her friend’s room in Kathu, or went to hang out with other friends on Patong beach.
She was arrested on several occasions for shoplifting. However, Kathu police could not charge her because she is a minor.
Life on the streets was not only tough but dangerous.
“I was abused once,” says Manel.
“I was following by two Thai guys who took me to an isolated spot and bound my mouth.”
Fortunately for Manel, villagers passing by rescued her. The two men were taken to police station and were charged with attempted rape.
As for her missing father, it turne out that Kathu police had arrested him in November. He was charged with possession of marijuana and sentenced to 45 days in jail.
After their father’s arrest, the whereabouts of Manel were unknown, while her younger sister Chima was watched over by a member of staff at the guesthouse where they had been staying. No relatives knew of their plight.
The girl’s disappearance only came to light after the arrest of a Belgian tourist, who was put in jail briefly following a bike crash.
In prison he met Manel’s father, who explained his story and asked him to contact the girl’s grandmother to tell her about his two missing daughters.
When the Belgian was released, he complied with the request, which led to the story of the two sisters being heard by the French Embassy in Bangkok.
Following a visit to Phuket by the French Consul, word spread about the missing girl and her photograph was distributed among authorities.
The information was then passed on to Phuket’s Tourist Police Volunteers who were sent a photo of Manel last Thursday at 9pm.
Just two hours later, Manel was spotted walking along Soi Bangla, where the Tourist Police Volunteers have a routine patrol.
Phuket Tourist Police Foreign Volunteers Group Leader Frank Tomenson said, “Volunteers Narada Hanks, a Thai national, Omar Al Quraiani from Jordan, and Sergio Bongiovanni from Italy, saw the before they went on duty.
“At around 11pm, while walking down Soi Crocodile, the volunteers spotted what looked like the girl, talking to three men. They spoke to the girl to obtain positive identification, and once she was identified, the volunteers removed her from this area.”
“I tried not to scare her,” said tourist police volunteer Al Quraiani, who was at the scene with Hanks and Bongiovanni. “I didn’t want to miss this one chance of finding her.”
After her rescue, Manel discovered that her sister had already been sent back to France, while her father had been released and was also preparing to return home.
The girl is currently staying at the Royal Phawadee Village where she is being looked after.
The French Embassy has already arranged her flight back to Paris next Tuesday.