Also present at the press conference, held at the Phuket Tourist Police headquarters in Phuket Town at 3pm, was Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Teeraphol Thipjaroen and other high-ranking officers.
The brief details revealed that four suspects – identified only as a Cameroonian, an Indian, an Algerian and a Nigerian – were arrested for illegally staying in the country after their permit to stay had expired, and four suspects were arrested for entering the country illegally.
Eleven suspects were arrested with drugs, in raids that saw 126.2 grams of crystal meth (ya ice) and 2,558 methamphetamine pills (ya bah) seized and two people were arrested for illegal possession of firearms.
Gen Surachate revealed that six suspects were arrested in raids on diving and tour boat operators, but did not name any of the operators, the companies involved or any details of when or where the raids took place.
However, it was revealed that two of the six were arrested for working illegally as tour guides and two others were arrested for not providing accident insurance for tourists
Gen Surachate also mentioned that one suspect was arrested during a raid on what was described as a “health operation”.
Police seized 1,193 bottles of medicine to be taken by injection, 269 bottles and 210 capsules of dietary supplements and 18 items of cosmetic make-up.
It was not made clear if any of the suspects taken into custody were charged with multiple offences. Some of the suspects were present at the conference, with their faces covered with medical masks.
“Phuket is an area where there is a variety of natural tourism destinations of the Andaman Sea. There are many islands around Phuket which are world tourism destinations. Many tourists from around the world visit Phuket,” Gen Surachate said.
However, he noted, “Even though officers strictly focus on tourists’ safety and security, we still receive many reports about tourists being cheated and exploited on products and services.”
“Also we receive reports about many groups of criminals, such as taxi services exploiting tourists and even groups of overstay tourists working together as gangs to trade in drugs and commit other crimes,” Gen Surachate explained.
“All of these cause very much damage to Thailand’s tourism image. The government has ordered soldiers and police to urgently protect and suppress crimes in tourism areas,” Gen Surachate added.
However, not mentioned yesterday were the allegations made public on Sunday (Oct 8) that at least two Tourist Police Volunteers in Phuket were involved in extorting money from local businesses in a racketeering scheme that targeted migrant workers.
The allegations were made in a video posted on the “Spotlight Phuket” Facebook page (see post here), accusing Tourist Police Volunteers of extorting money from business owners and collecting bribes for their Thai supervisors on the force.
National Thai-language newspaper Khao Sod reported on Tuesday that Tourist Police Commander Col Thongchai Wilaiprom declined to comment on the accusations, but added that the “provincial immigration police commander said Monday he had instructed his deputies to look into allegations”.
“Southern regional immigration police commander Jessada Yaisoon said Monday he had instructed his deputies to look into the claims,” the Khao Sod report noted. (See story here.)
The Phuket News has yet to successfully elicit any official comment on the allegations.