“We learned about the spate of arrests of dive instructors only yesterday (Jan 5),” Ratanapon Promchu, Manager of the Phuket-based ATUS office, told The Phuket News today.
“I went to meet with the Phuket Employment Office this morning. I talked with them about the gap between what a dive instructor needs to do and the registered place of work in the work permit,” she explained.
Ms Ratanapon confirmed that she was aware that in making some arrests, officers had dive instructors pulled out of training pools in the middle of classes, causing much alarm to the tourists learning to dive.
“That is how they do their job when they find instructors teaching lessons in a swimming pool that is not at the registered address in the work,” was all she would say on that point.
“In fact, the main issue is that every dive instructor must have the registered address of the company they work for entered in their work permit – but in reality, if there is no swimming pool at the company’s main office, the dive instructor will need to conduct classes at a location where there is a swimming pool,” Ms Ratanpon explained.
“With any lessons, of course the instructor must teach students in a swimming pool, then the students must practice in the sea.
“For this we need to find a solution. The current situation with only the company’s registered address entered in the work permit does not match reality – and police are arresting people for only doing their job.
“I am working on ways to solve this problem. I will present to the Phuket Employment Office a list of recommendations when the draft is finished,” Ms Ratanpon said.
Among the slew of complaints received by The Phuket News over the past two days were recurring reports that passports and work permits were being withheld even after a court-levied fine had been paid.
Allegations surfaced that officials were looking for cash contributions of a consistent sum of B35,000 before they would return the passports and work permits.
To this Ms Ratanapon was unable to comment in detail.
“Normally the fine is levied by the court, and dive instructors would be charged about B20,000 per person per breach of work permit regulations. Almost always this fine is paid to local police or the Phuket Provincial Investigator’s Office (under the Royal Thai Police),” Ms Ratanapon said.
The Acting Chief of the Phuket Employment Office, who declined to be named, also declined to comment to The Phuket News about the arrests.
Maj Gen Teeraphol Thijareon, Commander of Phuket Provincial Police and consequently the commanding officer of Phuket Provincial Investigator’s Office, denied any knowledge of the dive instructor arrests or the alleged cash “shakedowns” for passports and work permits to be returned.
“I don’t know anything about cases of dive instructors being arrested. If what they are doing is illegal and against the law, it is nothing more than police performing their duty
“I have no idea about instructors being arrested and fined,” he said.