Two foreigners in custody after clicking selfies with sea animals off Koh Pha Ngan

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Two foreigners – a Hungarian and a Dutch man – were arrested for picking up sea animals off Koh Pha Ngan, Surat Thani, to take selfies and a video and posting these on social media, a move that sparked widespread criticism from netizens.

“We tracked down the suspects and identified them as Attila Ott, a Hungarian national, and Francesco Simonetti, from the Netherlands,” Department of Marine and Coastal Resources director-general Sophon Thongdee said. “Ott is a diving instructor and owner of Pink Panther Scuba Dive Club on Koh Pha Ngan, while Simonetti is a chef at Il Barracuda Restaurant & BBQ, also on Koh Pha Ngan.”

The two reportedly confessed to snapping pictures and taking a video with sea animals at Salad Beach on Koh Pha Ngan and posted these on the internet.

“Salad Beach is a protected area, which makes their actions punishable by a maximum fine of Bt100,000 or one-year imprisonment, or both,” said Sophon.

“Officials also investigated the suspects’ travel history and fined Simonetti for failing to notify immigration officials within 24 hours after changing his address. Meanwhile, Kritiyaporn Khamsing, Ott’s wife, was also fined for failing to notify immigration officials in 24 hours after taking in an immigrant who was allowed to stay in Thailand temporarily,” he said.

“If you find any offenders of marine and coastal resources, please contact call centre 1310 immediately,” Sophon urged the public.