The hotel came under scrutiny after lawyer Sittra Biabangkerd posted a video clip on his Facebook page last Saturday (Apr 16), saying he had received complaints from Phuket residents that the hotel had opened its entertainment venues beyond the legal closing time for years, annoying the public with excessive noise.
Assistant national police chief Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn arrived in Phuket the next day (Sunday, Apr 17) and announced that five top-ranking officers at Patong Police Station, including Patong Police Chief Col Sujin Nilabadee, had been transferred pending an investigation into allegations that police had allowed the venue to remain open late.
A “fact-finding police panel” is to investigate whether the hotel violated the rules and question senior police responsible for the area, Maj Gen Surachate said.
Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew on Monday spoke carefully when responding to questions about the incident, which made national headlines during Songkran.
Instead of railing upon the “offender” for breach of the COVID regulations and the late trading, which is the normal stance taken by officials, Governor Narong said people needed to understand the situation of all people involved, including foriegn tourists on holiday in Phuket at the time.
Governor Narong said that legal action was being taken against the “offender”, but did not explain further. Mr Prab has yet to confirm what legal action the hotel is facing.
Speaking to The Phuket News, Mr Prab, President of the Pisona Group of companies that owns and operates hotels and other tourism-related businesses in Patong, said that having the hotel operate its nightlife venues had provided incomes to more than 400 employees.
Hundreds of employees took to Bangla Rd themselves last Saturday night to protest for their right to earn a living.
The key complaints were noise and trading beyond the 11pm closing time ‒ a COVID-19 prevention measure nationally mandated by the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) in Bangkok.
The government has done its own fancy dancing when it has come to allowing pubs and bars in Phuket to open. While the rest of the country under the order of the CCSA were forced to have pubs and bars shut down, Phuket officials allowed pubs and bars to reopen last year under the guise of operating as “restaurants”.
The CCSA did nothing to shut them down, openly ignoring the worst-kept secret in the country that Phuket pubs and bars were operating despite the measures ordered. Ironically, the CCSA later allowed entertainment-venue operators in other provinces the same latitude, as long as certain token registration and compliance mandates were met.
“The complaint part is interesting. We have noted who the complainant is, because local residents in Patong have long known that we [the Pisona Group] have been holding activities to stimulate the tourism economy, and events to help people by handing out survival bags and providing cash allowances to the elderly,” Mr Prab said.
“Those who come to rent space at the hotel to take part in the activities are charged very cheap rent,” he said.
The fact that the hotel was operating its nightlife venues late and loud was no secret among those in Patong, Mr Prab said, questioning whether the lawyer was acting on behalf of someone else. “Are the local residents actually complaining, or a certain group that stands to benefit?” he posed.
Some 400 “operators” stand to have their incomes affected by the shutdown, Mr Prab said. “In total, about 700 workers, including waiters, cashiers, tuk-tuk and taxi drivers are affected,” he noted.
Those people having their incomes affected would in turn affect thousands of people who depended on those incomes to meet living expenses, he added.
“The number of affected people is estimated to be around 3,000-4,000. They need that income to have food to eat, have opportunities, and have hope for life,” Mr Prab said.
“What worries about the economy is social stress, suicides, and safety. People don’t have money to send their children to school. There is no money to buy medicines and many people are unable to send money to family members at home. It will have a fairly wide impact,” he said.
Mr Prab also defended the accusations of the loud noise emanating from the hotel at night. “The location of the hotel is more than 200-300 metres from the local community and the sound should reach no more than 80-100m,” he said.
However, he added, “We are happy to make any corrections necessary.”
Responding to allegations of corruption, Mr Prab noted that it is difficult to accomplish anything without the blessing of those in positions of power in Patong.
“Finally, I would like to leave a message to the lawyer, who has come to help. Please help drive [this issue] with sincerity and earnestness. If no benefits are to be involved, I want you to help push the law to make it right. Don’t discriminate. Let’s help make Patong move forward as a tourist city,” Mr Prab said.
“If there is a proper legal arrangement by the right person, it won’t be a problem if it actually improves the situation. There would be no need for various kickbacks and we would be able to solve corruption problems in the long run,” he added.
“We can have a good, sustainable economy with the right framework. Today we say we have opened our house to tourism, but there are too many rules to follow, which need to be revised and improved in the future,” he said.
Of note, Mr Prab also serves as Chairman of the Patong Development Foundation, which through its ‘Patong Pansuk’ (“Patong Cupboard”) project has distributed essential foods and household items to local residents in need all throughout the COVID-regulated pandemic.
However, Mr Prab has now confirmed that the Patong Pansuk donation activities, which were held at the hotel, will be suspended indefinitely from this Sunday (Apr 24).