Two foreigners arrested for taking selfie video with marine animals

Two foreigners arrested for taking selfie video with marine animals

Attila Ott (left) and Francesco Simonetti report to police on Koh Phangan on Tuesday on charges of intruding in an area designated for environmental protection. (Photo: Supapong Chaolan)
Attila Ott (left) and Francesco Simonetti report to police on Koh Phangan on Tuesday on charges of intruding in an area designated for environmental protection. (Photo: Supapong Chaolan)

SURAT THANI: Two foreigners, long-stayers on Koh Phangan island, have been arrested after posting a video on Facebook of themselves toying with marine animals while diving in a protected area off the coast.

In the video, the two were seen tickling marine life with a selfie stick and taking their photos with them.

The clip went viral and drew criticism on social media - and irritated Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa.  

He instructed the Marine and Coastal Resources Department to find out who the two men were, what they were doing in the area and whether they held diving permits and other licences required by the law.

Mr Varawut also told permanent secretary Jatuporn Burusapattana to instruct officials to take legal action against the two men,

"The sea is home to marine life and marine resources. In the sea, humans are like uninvited guests. They should not do anything to annoy them or cause damage to their habitat," the minister was quoted as saying.

Sophon Thongdee, director-general of marine and coastal resources, said the two men had been identified. 

One of them was Attila Ott, a diving instructor and owner of a restaurant, the Pink Panther Scuba Dive Club. 

The other is Francesco Simonetti, a chef at IL Barracuda Restaurant % BBQ, on Koh Phangan. He has a speed boat and often takes his customers out diving.

Mr Sophon said the two had been detained by Koh Phangan police. They allegedly admitted taking the video in an area off Salat beach, Koh Phangan, and posting it on Youtube.

He did not give the nationality of the two foreigners. However, Mr Ott's website is in Hungarian.

In the presence of officials from the 4th Marine and Coastal Resources Office, police charged the two men with intruding in an area designated for environmental protection. This carries a maximum fine of 100,000 baht and/or a year in prison.

Their licences as diving instructors and other documents were being examined.

Mr Simonetti was initially fined for not reporting a change in his place of residence.

Mr Ott's wife Kritiyaporn Khamsing was also fined for providing shelter for a foreigner without informing the authorities within 24 hours, Mr Sophon said.

Facebook user Sitthiroj Kaewnongsamed posts a video featuring two foreigners tickling marine life with a selfie stick and taking photos with the animals. The clip drew a barrage of criticism online against the two men.


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