Thailand tourism authority clarifies remarks from Phuket airport chief, says tourists won't face death penalty over photos with low-flying planes

The Tourism Authority of Thailand is clarifying remarks made by the chief of the Phuket International Airport after a report in the Bangkok Post suggested tourists could face the death penalty for taking photos beneath landing planes.

Airport Chief Wichit Kaeothaithiam told the Post that the "maximum penalty" for tourists who distract pilots near the Phuket International Airport was the "death sentence," but the tourism authority now says that such punishment is reserved only for actions that are deliberately intended to impede the plane or the captains' performance, and not simply the act of posing for selfies on a secured section of Mai Khao beach.

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"There is no such penalty for taking such selfies with landing planes in Phuket. We understand that the airport authorities are looking at ways to introduce a safety zone for tourists to take photos with the landing planes," a representative for the Tourism Authority of Thailand confirmed in a statement to Fox News.

The authority went on to say that Kaeothaithiam was referring to crimes such as "flying drones or shining flashlights or laser lights at planes," which are subject to harsher punishments under the country's Air Navigation Act.

The portion of the beach near the airport’s runway has become very popular on social media, and is sometimes known as “Unseen Phuket,” as tourists flock to the section to pose with the landing planes.

According to the Bangkok Post, authorities have become more concerned as the beach has grown in popularity and will be developing a new safety zone near the runway that will ban people from entering sometime soon.

"People and tourists will not be allowed to enter this area to take photos," Kaeothaithiam said.

Following the implementation of the off-limits safety area, violators will reportedly face harsh punishments, such as a fine of 40,000 baht ($1,253) or a jail sentence of up to 20 years, The Sun reported.

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But Mai Khao beach isn't the only airport-adjacent spot with a selfie problem. Tourists looking to snag photos with low-flying aircraft have been a problem at another popular beach in the Caribbean, as well.

Maho Beach, on the island of Saint Martin, has seen tourists suffer deaths after trying to get an up-close plane pic. A 57-year-old woman vacationing in Saint Martin was killed after a blast from a nearby jet knocked her to the ground. Officials say the woman had been holding onto a fence that separates the beach from the airport when winds generated by the jet’s engines blasted her back.

More recently, an acrobatic couple was criticized for performing a one-handed headstand inches away from a cargo plane. Performers Oleg Kolisnichenko, 36, and Yuliia Nos, 25, appear to be just feet away from the aircraft in the daring snap.

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“It didn’t touch my feet but I felt so much air from the plane and I lost my balance. It was so much fun and exciting but it was only after I realized how dangerous it was,” Nos said to SWNS.