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Russian women reveal details behind illegal Phuket coral possession charges

PHUKET: Two Russian women unable to leave Thailand while waiting to face harges of illegal possession of corals in court have spoken out about how they came to be in possession of the corals that has left them stranded in Phuket on B40,000 bail.

tourism, Russian, natural-resources, marine, crime, police,

The Phuket News

Monday 12 February 2018, 11:52AM

One of the women charged, Liliya Karmanova (top, right) told the press in her hometown in Russia that she and her friend were released on B150,000 bail, not B40,000 as reported by the DMCR. Photos: DMCR / file
One of the women charged, Liliya Karmanova (top, right) told the press in her hometown in Russia that she and her friend were released on B150,000 bail, not B40,000 as reported by the DMCR. Photos: DMCR / file

The women – Russian university student on holiday Liliya Karmanova, 20, and her friend Polina Likman, 21 – were arrested by the Karon Police and then taken to be detained at the holding cells at Phuket Provincial Court on Feb 1 following a complaint filed by the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) Phuket office.

The complaint was filed after a tip-off – from a person who the DMCR and the Karon Police at the time identified as a “neighbour” who saw Ms Karmanova pouring toilet bleach onto the corals at their rented bungalow in Karon. (See story here.)

Both women were later released on B40,000 bail and now have their passports held pending their case being heard at Phuket Provincial Court, Capt Channarong Prakongkue of the Karon Police told The Phuket News last Wednesday (Feb 7). (See story here.)

If found guilty, the women each face a fine of up to B20,000 or up to a year in jail, or both.

However, in speaking with NGS news portal in her home city of Novosibirsk in Siberia, Ms Karmanova explained that the “neighbour” was in fact their “landlady” at the Nan Inn Bungalow in Karon, where the Russian tourists were staying.

Ms Karmanova also explained that she and Ms Likman bought the corals “from a Thai man at a beach”.

Ms Karmanova also pointed out that she and Ms Likman presented themselves to Karon Police on learning that a warrant had been issued for Ms Karmanova’s arrest. (See NGS news story here.)

The women bought the corals and shells “in a pack” from a Thai man for B100 on January 26, Ms Karmanova explained.

“We knew that it’s illegal to take ‘raw’ corals from Thailand, but not souvenirs made of corals and seashells. That’s why we were sure that there was nothing illegal as we had bought the corals here,” she said.

On returning to their rented bungalow, the women told the landlady about their new souvenirs, but the landlady objected to the smell and banned the women from taking the corals and shells into the bungalow, she added.

Ms Karmanova said that through their limited English she and Ms Likman understood that the landlady warned them that they might “have problems at the airport”.

However, Ms Karmanova explained, “But since we though that we could take out the shells that we had bought here, we did not worry much.”

QSI International School Phuket

“The next day we tried to clean them (the corals and shells) with the cleaning agent so that the owner of the hotel would not worry that they would smell,” Ms Karmanova added.

“After a while, she (the landlady) came running in and told us to put the bleach back into the bottle as it was a ‘dangerous chemical’, which we did. We then packed all the shells and corals into a bag and left them in the yard so as not to inflame any new conflicts with the landlady,” she added.

The women planned to take them back to the beach and throw them back into the water later anyway, Ms Karmanova said.

After dealing with the landlady’s concerns, the women went out and returned to their bungalow later only to learn about the police visit, after which the two women voluntarily presented themselves at Karon Police Station, where they were placed under arrest, Ms Karmanova said, clarifying how the pair came to be taken into custody.

The women were later released on B150,000 bail – not B40,000 bail as reported by the DMCR – with the help of a lawyer hired by Ms Karmanova’s parents, NGS reported.

After their release on bail, the pair returned to the bungalow and talked to the “hotel owner”, who accepted their apologies and said she might have gone too far calling the police, said the NGS report.

Ms Karmanova and Ms Likman are expected to have their case heard in court within 48 days.

In the meantime their passports are being held by authorities so they cannot leave the country, as is standard procedure as foreigners are usually deemed a flight risk in any criminal charges.

In addition to fear of going to prison, Ms Karmonova is worried about her university studies, as she will need to prove why she has been unable to attend classes, reported NGS.

Further, Ms Polina’s father claims that both families have had to take out bank loans in order to cover all legal expenses and rising costs of the two students’ forced extended stay in Thailand.

“Polina and I are so grateful to our parents for their help and support. We miss them greatly,” Ms Karmonova said.



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Pauly44 | 14 February 2018 - 07:08:58

Not every society, take Australia for example vast majority of it's  citizens take personal responsibility for their environment unlike Thailand,  environmental laws are strictly enforced but fair and it shows as the environment there is as good as it gets, you won't see any rubbish, fish stocks are plentiful, no raw sewage leaking directly onto beachfront etc. 

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Jor12 | 13 February 2018 - 20:37:21

Why on earth would you discriminate in law? As a theory, a gram of heroin should be treated as a misdemeanor (whatever that means). So if the environment is long past help, why bother trying to save it or have laws to try and save it? Obviously the science is against that crazy notion.   

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Christy Sweet | 13 February 2018 - 18:03:32

 Agree the environment is long past help, and these women are being scapegoated. The amount of coral (do shells count?) shown in the picture should be treated as a misdemeanor. Change the law to a more sensible and appropriate response that can differentiate between 
beach souvenirs and suitcases full of it back to Russia.

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Kurt | 13 February 2018 - 18:02:08

Let's hope some one sensible thai Authority is able to look outside a tiny little square after seeing some shells on a blue plate
And decide a 1000 thb ( for example) fine each, and let the girls leave Thailand and go home
This thai soap drama goes to far if you project it on own thai rich people wrong doings at a much larger scale
Abroad people now think about discrimination & corrupti...

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Jor12 | 13 February 2018 - 17:32:38

Every society one cares to look at does exactly the same thing. 

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Pauly44 | 13 February 2018 - 16:41:29

Gotta love the crazy who still believes draconian Thai laws are black & white, enforced consistently regardless of race and/or socioeconomic status, Thai\'s have been absolutely & irreversibly trashing their environment for years without consequences, deluded!  

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Jor12 | 13 February 2018 - 16:20:19

It's all very well saying it's a "gouge." What pearl of wisdom would one offer to a concerned citizen who wants to reports any offence?

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Jor12 | 13 February 2018 - 16:11:39

If only people would read the act then try think outside of their tiny little square. 

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BenPendejo | 13 February 2018 - 15:46:11

This case has very little, if anything, to do with environmental protection.  The damage has been done, with nearly all coral reefs along the west coast being dead and crumbling do to abuse, neglect and illegal discharges, which continue to this day, thus preventing new coral growth. This case is a gouge, and will do more to harm tourism than it will to protect natural resources.

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Jor12 | 13 February 2018 - 14:34:24

Gotta laugh at the crazies on here. First they moan and groan about nothing being done about the environment, but still moan and groan when something is done. So the corollary by the PN crazies is that an enforcement of any law anywhere is obscene. 

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