A security officer at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport has been suspended while police investigate the shocking smuggling incident that caused chaos on board a flight to Taiwan.
Passengers were left stunned when a mouse and an otter, smuggled into a passenger’s hand luggage, escaped in mid-air and bit a flight steward’s hand.
The giant albino rodent with glittering red eyes was spotted by passengers when they went to the bathroom on the Airbus A320 flying from Bangkok to Taiwan on Wednesday afternoon.
The agitated stewardesses searched the plane and noticed a second wild creature: a 30cm long otter under a seat.
The video shows the chaos on board the flight operated by the Vietnamese company VietJet as the crew struggled to capture the animals.
Thailand is a major transit hub for wildlife smugglers who often sell the animals to China and Vietnam.
Dozens of other animals were also brought on board
Incredibly, a box of 28 live turtles was also found when police searched the plane upon landing in Taipei after a three-hour and 45-minute low-cost flight.
Officials have now launched an investigation into the alleged Chinese-speaking passenger who smuggled the creatures through security at Thailand’s notoriously corrupt Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
A shocked passenger who filmed the scene said: “The flight took off as scheduled and the pilot ordered the seatbelts to be loosened. I came back from the bathroom and my friend softly whispered to me “there is a mouse on the plane”.
“I was confused so he said again ‘house mouse, house mouse, it has a white body and it’s not small’.
“I told the cabin crew and they checked the plane. That’s when they found the large otter under one of the seats. They continued to search for the white mouse and an employee caught it.
“He bit them on the hand as they carried him back to the kitchen at the back of the plane.”
How did the cabin crew handle the live animal situation?
The cabin crew reportedly made an announcement ordering anyone who brought animals onto the plane to make themselves known.
The filmer said several seats were searched before a Chinese passenger “asked for a refund” and allegedly admitted they were his animals.
Staff then appealed for a passenger who could “speak fluent Chinese” to help them discuss the situation with the woman, who is believed to have purchased the creatures at a market in the Thai capital.
The filmer, who wished to remain anonymous, said “every bag” was searched when the plane landed at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.
Police found a bag that allegedly contained 28 star tortoises, a snake, a marmot, two otters and two other unknown rodents. The creatures were seen being removed from the plane.
The Taoyuan Branch of the Defense Inspection Department said today that the star tortoises will be kept in quarantine and the rest will be sent to Pingtung University of Science and Technology for confirmation before disposal.
Passengers who bring animals on board risk a hefty fine of 30,000 euros
Police said the suspect was being questioned and could be fined up to 1 million Taiwan dollars (31,000 dollars, almost 30,000 euros) in accordance with the provisions of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Animal Diseases.
Officials said they did not know how the animals were brought onto the plane.
The passenger believed to have smuggled them onto the plane “did not cooperate”.
Thai airport worker suspended after animals pass through security checks
Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport said the animals failed to pass through security due to human error.
“We examined the CCTV cameras and found that the smugglers were two foreigners whose bags had been scanned through an X-ray machine,” the airport said in a statement released on Thursday evening.
“One of the staff was suspicious, so they assigned someone else to open the luggage. However, they did not check the bags and let the passengers pass.”
The staff member who failed to properly inspect the baggage was suspended while an investigation was carried out, the airport said.
Taiwanese authorities said they were investigating the two suspected traffickers.