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Several Thai Airways staff accused of faking their own deaths to claim funeral allowance

Aviation Updates Philippines – 20 members of the Savings Cooperative for Employees of Thai Airways International (THAI) and their lawyers filed a complaint with the Crime Suppression Division of Thailand's Central Investigation Bureau on Tuesday (February 16), urging an investigation into some of its members who allegedly faked their own deaths to receive a funeral allowance from the airline.

An internal investigation by the cooperative found at least 26 fraudulent cases dating back to 2013, though it's likely that other similar cases before 2013 exist.

"The cooperative has found that the number of members filing for funeral allowance has increased suspiciously over several years," Weerayut Thuankong, one of the 20 members of the cooperative who filed the complaint, said in a statement.

"We checked the evidence they submitted and found that the death certificates appeared to be fake, as the persons declared dead are still working for the company," he added.

With a payout of nearly $18,000 per employee, the fraud has cost THAI around $468,000, or 14 million Baht.

Over the years, numerous allegations of corruption by executives and employees have plagued the troubled airline which is currently undergoing restructuring.

In August of 2020, Thailand's Ministry of Transport launched an investigation after it was discovered that several THAI employees became unusually rich from a major aircraft procurement deal struck in 2003-2004. 

Four months later, 20 more employees were flagged for their involvement in various corrupt practices resulting in massive losses to the airline.

In November of 2020, Wallop Bhukkanasut, a former chairman of THAI, was given a two-year jail sentence for abusing his authority in 2009 when he brought 300 kilograms of luggage on a flight from Tokyo to Bangkok without paying for the excess weight. Bhukkanasut reportedly leveraged his status to pressure airline staff into changing the recorded weight of his luggage.

Bhukkanasut was ordered to pay for the excess baggage following an investigation in early 2010. He resigned from the company shortly afterward.

Photo by Toshi Aoki

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