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Phuket Opinion: Ghost of Phuket past rears its ugly head

Phuket Opinion: Ghost of Phuket past rears its ugly head

PHUKET: This past week saw two separate incidents that highlighted golden opportunities for those holding the reins of the national economy to take strides towards their espoused goal of correcting critical issues besieging Thailand’s, and especially Phuket’s, tourism industry.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 12 July 2020, 09:00AM

A digger moves in to demolish buildings at the Nui Beach Member Club this week. Image: ISOC

A digger moves in to demolish buildings at the Nui Beach Member Club this week. Image: ISOC

The incident that saw a Thai tourist’s post about being heavily overcharged by a restaurant in Kamala go viral on Thai social media was one such alarm bell. First, if the incident failed to gain such traction on social media, it is easy to believe that no action would have been taken by any officials.

Second, the understanding of what had happened as explained by police and local officials screamed loudly what the common understanding of what the danger truly was.

One reader of The Phuket News, a foreigner, commented that he knew the owners of the restaurant well, that they were good people and would not intentionally overcharge anyone for anything. That may be so, and that particular incident may have been nothing more than a true misunderstanding.

Yet the concerns raised by police and local officials said everything about what the commonly understood status quo was at least before COVID-19 broke out. The call for no businesses to charge Thai tourists high prices, especially now during the current economic crisis, shouted loud that the practice was incerdibly common before.

Let that sink in for a minute. Apparently it is fine to charge foreign tourists high prices when businesses can get away with it. Part of that could be understood from a financial perspective, when once upon a time Phuket was a relatively cheap holiday destination and the higher prices charged were still good value for the foreign tourists.

But that monster greed clawed away that competitive advantage in the international tourism realm long before COVID came along. Phuket was no longer a cheap holiday destination before COVID-19, and Phuket along with Thailand was already suffering from falling tourist numbers. In only six months we surely could not have forgotten that already.

Likewise, the retaking of Nui Beach this week also highlighted one of the great chasms in so-called justice dispensed in the Kingdom.

Officials took years to bring culprits in, all because officials targeted the illegal occupation of the state land – even then, that was not really understood by local law enforcement as a problem until it became public that drugs and guns were part of the operations. Let’s repeat that: “not until it became public”.

So accepted was that understanding that the beach club can still be found promoted on foreign-operated tourism websites as a "stunning, secret beach" legitimate natural tourist attraction. Even for those operators, as long as tourists are willing to pay the prices for their enjoyment, the legality just does not matter.

Yet never are any culprits “brought to justice” by being charged with encroachment asked to repay the millions of baht made by their illegal-gotten gains. Just the land encroachment charge is deemed appropriate enough. That is the same as being caught for robbing a bank, but not having to give the money back. That is how ludicrous that understanding is.

Over recent months we have heard top-ranking officials spout off about fixing problems of the past so that Thailand will once again become a holiday destination of choice once the shroud of COVID-19 is lifted, but what we have seen this week inspires very little confidence that will actually happen.

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Kurt | 13 July 2020 - 16:11:28

@Pascale, not a slow day at all. Your 'wondering' comment about PN adds is giving room to several interpretations. It was not clear at all .I asked you 3 questions about it, you didn't answer. Just came up with a 'slow day' remark. Well,...

Wolfgang0815 | 13 July 2020 - 12:26:19

I also agree to island man, that a big part of the chaos will be back soon, but please let me point out, that officials do a lot.
You see them repairing streets and infrastructure everywhere, and at least they now took back control over that beach. It is not perfect and still it's too easy for those criminals, but at least they did it now. Everyone knows about the situation since years.

Kurt | 13 July 2020 - 10:47:06

Look at the large shopping centres in Phuket Town and Patong. Everything (branded)  the same, from shirts to shoes. you also can buy 30% cheaper in Shopping paradise Singapore, sold by product trained staff. For shopping tourists don't have to come tp Phuket. It is not 'value for money'. As simple is that.

Pascale | 13 July 2020 - 09:34:36

Kurt,having a slow day again ? It wasn't about the price paid for an advertisement !

Timothy | 13 July 2020 - 08:31:02

It does get very tiring having to have a Thai ask the price for every single item you want to purchase, knowing you will be ripped off otherwise. Of course the Thai authorities don't care if farang are ripped off. Phuket taxi pricing and lack of meters are proof of this. Visit provinces with few tourists, and it's amazing how inexpensive a good meal is. Good article PN.  

Island Man | 13 July 2020 - 05:33:13

...Oh yes, we’ve all noticed and marveled at how things could be, used to be, but when things return to normal, so too will the chaos. Enjoy it while you can Phuket…it won’t last.

Island Man | 13 July 2020 - 05:29:58

...And lest we forget charming took-took and their violent, angry, and dangerous drivers. How much more pleasant is it to drive Phuket’s roads with all of them. Notice to, the beaches, now quiet and safer without the rip-off Jet Ski and Parasail Mafia operators that endanger the lives of beach goers with every launch and recovery... 

Island Man | 13 July 2020 - 05:28:31

The shroud of Covid-19 has laid bare many ugly things pursuant to Phuket tourism. Without a doubt, we have all noticed the absence of the double-decker tour busses clogging the roads and endangering lives. Gone too are the maniacal mini-bus drivers who seem to be on a mission to cause death and destruction. Let us not forget the overcharging incompetent taxis drivers.... 

ThorFinger | 12 July 2020 - 21:02:10

In defence of Thai business people though, I don't think they are the major culprits of price gouging. I point I that I can buy a pair of shorts made in Bangladesh, sold in Australia for half the price of what I can buy them in Phuket. The same goes for electronics for the past decade at least. Perhaps an inquiry into pricing competitiveness would be in order. 

ThorFinger | 12 July 2020 - 20:56:24

Well done. Courageous article. I'm not sure even it were written in Thai that Thai people would understand there is a problem here. 

Kurt | 12 July 2020 - 20:17:21

@Pascale, Which are exactly the expensive business advertisements? Why you expect 'cheap' adds in order to attract quality tourists, something Thai Government/TAT are already compelling for years about, but not realise?  Anyway, what is a expensive or a cheap add? A add is a add. Expensive or cheap is subjective.

LALALA | 12 July 2020 - 10:24:22

You do not need an article that long to explain what Thailand and especially Phuket is. LOS=Land Of Scam and Phuket=Rip Off Place.

Nasa12 | 12 July 2020 - 10:06:32

A very good article PN. 

Pascale | 12 July 2020 - 09:37:21

I 'm shocked ! Wondering if the PN will stop publishing paid advertisements from expensive businesses on Phuket now and instead promotes cheap businesses in order to attract tourists again.Especially to bring back tourists from western European countries who are so missed by some expats here.


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