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.