V/Gov Thanyawat also ordered relevant officials to “take care of customers and tourists, and to prevent any kind of scamming”.
“Officials have to strictly do things under the law and if they find illegal activities, they can proceed immediately,” he said.
The warning came during inspections of Ladthi Wanaram temple (Wat Tai) in Chalong and Sawang Arom temple in Rawai this morning (July 23).
The entourage of officials inspecting the temples today included representatives from Phuket City Municipality and the Phuket branch of the National Office of Buddhism (NOB).
The inspection was ordered by Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana, noted a report by the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department.
However, no mention was made of any illegal or suspicious activities actually being perpetrated at either of the two temples.
The inspections and warning today followed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha last Wednesday calling for operators in the tourism industry to not take advantage of tourists.
The request came less than 24 hours after two Australian tourists filed a complaint for being charged B3,000 by a passenger van driver for taking them from Phuket International Airport to Kata Beach last Tuesday night (July 17).
“Taking advantage of tourists adversely affects tourism in Phuket. Also, it negatively affects the reputation of Thai people and country as well,” PM Prayut said.
“Operators [in the tourism industry], please help to take care and keep an eye on tourists. Prevent this kind of behavior from happening again.
“Also, officials must be strict in their supervision and prevent it. It must not happen again,” the Prime Minister said. (See story here.)
The complaint filed by the Australian tourists, however, was soon dismissed by police as a “misunderstanding” between the van driver – who was illegally operating at Phuket International Airport – and the two tourists through private negotiations on the fare charged. (See story here.)
The report by the Phuket office of the PR Dept today noted that complaints filed in November 2017 saw an administrator at Wat Tai being accused of giving temple land to a private company to build a blessing hall and sell amulets at inflated higher prices to Chinese tourists. (See story here.)
The ensuing investigation saw the Phuket NOB office allow the private company to continue to sell items and artefacts while it continued its investigation into alleged price-gouging and other irregularities. (See story here.)
The Phuket PR report today noted that the Phuket NOB branch had filed requests for the officials at the NOB headquarters in Bangkok to check the land boundaries of the temple land and to check whether the rental contract issued to the private company, abided by NOB regulations.
That was the state of play as of Nov 2017.
The PR Dept report today, however, did not elaborate on the findings of that investigation.
At last report, Somkiet Kaewsakul, who heads Puttatham Co Ltd, which literally translates as “Buddhism Virtue Co Ltd”, during the inspection in Nov 2017 told the press, “Chinese tourists have visited the temple for more than 10 years. As Chinese and Thai are culturally different, sometimes this can cause damage to the image of Buddhism. So we made the building to look similar to a temple to help the tourists understand how to behave appropriately while they are here.
“The items and artefacts are all real. We did not force anyone to buy them. The prices range from around B1,000 to more then B10,000,” he said. (See story here.)