BTS apologises for guard's clash with Irish passenger

national March 23, 2012 00:00

By The Nation

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Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS), the operator of the Skytrain, yesterday apologised to a foreign passenger who claimed he was attacked by a security guard for breaching a rule banning gas-filled balloons on the rail system.

The apology followed the filing of police complaints by both sides in the March 16 altercation at Prompong Station. 

“We have already removed the guard[s] who were involved from the BTS system,” BTS executive Anat Arbhabhirama said yesterday.
He added that negligent officials – who he said were the source of the passenger’s dissatisfaction – would also face a disciplinary probe and harsh disciplinary action. 
Irish teacher John Behan did not stop when security guards at Prompong Station told him he could not take balloons onto the train, saying he had boarded the Skytrain several times that day with the balloons, which had been given to his 7-year-old daughter as graduation presents.
The girl had celebrated her graduation from kindergarten earlier in the day. 
“Balloons are inflammable. We strictly don’t allow passengers to bring along gas-filled balloons,” Anat said.
According to Anat, Behan argued heatedly with the security guards, pushing one in the chest and kicking the chief of the station. In self-defence, a security guard hit the passenger with a scanner. 
“The chief of the station then tried to provide first aid, but the passenger refused and tried to walk up the platform. Then, the scene turned chaotic again,” Anat said.
He said BTS would take additional measures to ensure that such an incident never happened again. 
Anat said BTS would cooperate with the investigation into a complaint filed by Behan. In his complaint, Behan said he was attacked while his young daughter was watching.
Earlier in the day, Anat said BTS had lodged a complaint against Behan over damage to its property and attempts to assault its staff. 
He said police would investigate and determine who was in the wrong.
Anat said he believed there might have been a problem with communication, as station staff were not fluent in English.
In a message posted on the Internet, Behan’s wife Patcharamas Phusri said the incident took place on March 16, the day her daughter celebrated her graduation from a kindergarten. 
“The balloons are gifts from her teachers and other parents on her graduation day. They have much sentimental value to her,” Patcharamas said in the message. “My husband, his coworkers, our daughter and my mom took the Sktrain with the balloons before they ended up having problems at the Prompong station.” An informed source yesterday disclosed that many security guards at Siam Station were transferred for their failure to prevent Behan from carrying the floating balloons into a train. 
In her post, Patcharamas said she was not present during the confrontation, but rushed to the scene as soon as she was notified that her husband was involved in an altercation. 
“When I arrived, I found my husband was bleeding,” she said.
She claimed the BTS security guards attacked her husband after they had already taken the balloons away.
Both sides have lodged complaints with Thonglor police station.
The police station’s superintendent, Colonel Ratsak Raksalam, said investigators would question more witnesses, possibly including the one who posted a video of the incident on the Internet.
“The clips we have obtained from Skytrain have no audio,” he said.
According to him, police have not yet pressed charges against anyone as they are still waiting for physical examination certificates issued by a doctor.
“The doctor at the Police Hospital will determine the level of Behan’s injuries,” Ratsak said, explaining that this would determine the severity of any possible charges.
Ratsak said that from what he had learned so far, he believed both Behan and BTS security guard Prasarn Thawongklang were trying to do their “duty”. 
“Behan was doing his duty as a father, but Prasarn was carrying out his duty as a security guard of the Skytrain,” the police officer said. “If a balloon explodes in a train compartment, other passengers may think a bomb has gone off and panic. A stampede could follow, and many people can be injured in such scenario.”
According to Ratsak, a physical assault is punishable by a fine and/or a jail term.
“If the assault does not really cause physical harm, the maximum fine is Bt1,000 and the jail term would be no more than one month,” he said.

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