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Phuket Governor in face off with Tourism Dept boss over corruption allegations, Patong bar crackdown

PHUKET: The Director-General of the Department of Tourism, Wanasiri Morakul, arrived in Phuket yesterday (Feb 2) to personally question Governor Chockchai Dejamornthan and other top officials about a slew of critical issues facing Phuket as a tourism destination.

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Friday 3 February 2017, 06:01PM

Among the issues raised were the ongoing allegations of officials extorting money from tourism businesses and migrant workers, the crackdown on closing times on bars and nightclubs in Patong and the current state of Phuket International Airport.

“I came to Phuket to find out the truth from the Phuket Governor and relevant officials about that current entertainment tourism business ‘management’ as well as issues regarding the licenses of tour companies and tour guides,” she said.

“I also came to check the standard of tourism ‘places’ and to learn how Phuket Airport is taking steps to make it better for tourists – because Phuket is a major revenue-generating province for the country,” Ms Wanasiri said.

Sitting in the commander’s seat at the “Phuket Incident Commander Centre” at Provincial Hall, Ms Wanasiri opened the meeting with her focus on the current campaign on “illegal hotels”, to bring operators who rent out properties for periods of less than 30 days, including condo owners, into the fold under the Hotel Act.

To this, Ms Wansiri’s instructions were brief. “We must make every hotel legal as quickly as possible,” was all she would say.

By coincidence, only hours earlier Gov Chockchai was in the commander’s chair, but publicly denying any high-ranking officials had taken bribes to allow illegal hotels to operate. (See story here.)

This was not discussed when meeting Ms Wanasiri yesterday afternoon.

Regarding the crackdown on entertainment venues, forcing bars and nightclubs in Patong to close at midnight or 1am, Ms Wanasiri volunteered to act as an intermediary in resolving the issue.

“I will help to find a way to resolve the matter, and to help investors in entertainment businesses, as this industry generates a lot of revenue in the tourism sector,” she said.

The crackdown, which was launched by surprise on Monday night (Jan 30), has left Bangla Rd, the heart and soul of Patong’s party district, deserted after the bars and clubs close. (See story here.)

 In response, more than 20 owners of bars, nightclubs and other entertainment businesses in Patong on Wednesday (Feb 1) filed a petition addressed to Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha for a special zone to be set up, allowing the venues to close later than the current legally mandated times. (See story here.)

However, Gov Chockchai made no mention on any further progress on the closing time crackdown.

Instead, he talked about tour guides.

“Only Thai people can be tour guides, and Phuket has many illegal tour guides,” he started.

“I have found there are many Scandinavian tourists coming to Phuket, and translators are needed because Thai tour guides cannot speak Scandinavian languages. But translators must work with Thai tour guides,” Gov Chockchai added.

QSI International School Phuket

He then somehow concluded, “I can confirm absolutely that there are no illegal tour guides in Phuket.”

While Gov Chockchai’s awkward explanation failed to include any response to the call by former Phuket Senator Tunyaratt Achariyachai for a Bangkok-led investigation into rampant corruption among officials in Phuket – specifically mentioning harassment and extortion by officials against Scandinavian tour operators (see story here) – he did at least acknowledge the alleged extortion by officials targeting migrant workers.

“Myanmar workers who had work permits and valid passports and other documents were caught – and charged – for working at a place not entered in their work permits,” he said.

“Foreign workers will be checked for the correct documents and work permits, and if they are working outside the restrictions in their work permits – we must follow law,” he said.

Incredibly, however, by this reasoning Gov Chockchai concluded, “So there is no extortion by officials in Phuket.”

To answer questions about Phuket Airport, airport official Thammanu Kertnak explained, “Right now Phuket Airport is undergoing improvements to the Domestic Terminal. Some parts of the building must be closed and this affects passengers, causing inconvenience.

“The improvements will be finished by December 11 this year,” he said

Mr Thammanu, however, did bring Ms Wanasiri up to speed on the state of the toilets.

“We have already ordered staff to take care of this. Finally, the toilets are clean and ready for passengers,” he said, explaining an issue already raised and resolved by Transport Minister Lt Gen Arkhom Termpittayapaisith during his inspection of the airport on Jan 23.

Mr Thammanu made no mention of the lack of security scanners at the entrances to the brand-new multi-billion baht International Terminal, causing huge queues of tourist waiting in the heat outside, which Gen Arkhom ordered urgent attention to. (see story here.)

He also made no mention of airport officials this week starting to use the smaller X-Terminal to reduce the queues. (See story here.)

In concluding the meeting yesterday, Ms Wanasiri expressed her concern about the impact Social Media can have in relaying the current spate of problems facing Phuket’s tourism industry to persons inside – and outside – the country.

“People should be careful when sharing news such as this on social media because when it gains widespread presence, the news can have a negative effect on Phuket’s tourism image,” she said.

Regardless, she added, “I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all officials to work hard for Phuket Province – and to let them know that I will bring all the information I have learned to the attention of the Tourism Minister (Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul),” she said.



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Rorii | 06 February 2017 - 10:55:06

OMG, for once I find myself agreeing with "Eagle," what is happening.

Nasa123 | 06 February 2017 - 06:54:12

@Kurt, 100% agree with you.I hope (maybe) Phuket Governor Chokchai Dejamornthan can answer soon, he are like a snake for me.

Kurt | 05 February 2017 - 22:55:59

Madam Wanasiri said:,,,,\\\'Because Phuket is a major revenue generating province of Thailand.
Yes, we all know that, so time Thailand shows/prove that.

Time Phuket gets a manager to handle that major thing in a professional way. 
No free time loaders to contradict themselves in press talks.

Kurt | 05 February 2017 - 17:50:10

I try to think about what substantial good things present Phuket Governor has done for Phuket since his arrival.

Light rail system? Was already swerving. Just 'air'.
Phuket airport matters since September 16 2016? Governor silent as a mouse.
Illegal hotels? A big hole talk. The laws are clear. Something the Governor not aware about ( 5 years traject)
Polluted beaches? With a...

El Chappo | 05 February 2017 - 16:06:56

If I have understood the governors comments correctly then officially unofficially there are no illegal tour guides here and there are illegal tour guides here.

I hope that Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul has been fully briefed on the toilets.

Kurt | 05 February 2017 - 12:00:31

For Governor to chew on:
...The truth has longer legs than the denial/lie/ignoring of facts!...

Phuket corruption;  Rotten to the core.

bustermanidogs | 05 February 2017 - 10:53:11

This governor has proved that nothing he says can ever be the truth. To make a statement that there is no extortion by officials in Phuket is just utterly ridiculous. This governor needs to learn about honesty, responsibility, culpability and tourism, before he damages Phukets tourism even more. Maybe if he got out more instead of staying at home eating take aways he would gain more experience. 

Kurt | 05 February 2017 - 09:43:24

The Governor said:.."I can conform absolutely that there are no illegal tour guides on Phuket"..

That is great news for all illegal tour guides on Phuket!
Now on Phuket are no officials daring to arrest illegal tour guides anymore.
If officials arrest illegal tour guides, than they 'expose' the Governor! 
That would be a enormous 'loose face' matter for the Governor...

Roger Scallywag | 04 February 2017 - 16:52:15

Could people kindly stop posting the truth on social media - we certainly don't want the truth getting out !!!!!!

Roger Scallywag | 04 February 2017 - 16:50:45

It\'s all a facade. Because many issues were not discussed or just brushed under the carpet they simply do not exist.

Ms. Morakul should have actaully got off here high horse, out of the supreme commanders chair and toured the island and spoken to the actual people affected by all of the nonsense and shanninagans that goes on here.


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