Tourists in Southeast Asia warned of illegal souvenirs
By Joseph Yeh,The China PostTAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday urged people traveling in Southeast Asia to be careful when purchasing souvenirs.
March 6, 2013, 12:34 am TWN
The warning comes after a Taiwanese national was briefly detained by police after buying illegal items on a street.
James Chou (周穎華), deputy director-general of the ministry's Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told reporters at a regular news briefing yesterday that a Taiwanese national was arrested during a trip to a Southeast Asian country during the Lunar New Year holiday last month.
The Taiwanese bought an item from a vendor at a tourist site in the country. The person was not aware, however, that the purchased item was prohibited in that nation.
The tourist was later questioned and arrested by a law enforcement officer who happened to be conducting a spot check near the site, Chou said.
The tourist was detained until the foreign ministry offered assistance. MOFA has hired a lawyer to assist the person throughout the legal process.
The Taiwanese is still prohibited from leaving the country in question and is currently awaiting a court hearing, he added.
Citing privacy, Chou refused to disclose the tourist's gender or which country he or she traveled to.
He also refused to disclose the item the tourist purchased, saying that many things are considered prohibited in certain Southeast Asian countries, including endangered species and illicit drugs, such as marijuana.
In light of the incident, MOFA is warning local travelers to think twice before buying souvenirs from vendors on the street for fear of breaching local laws and facing legal issues in foreign lands, Chou added.