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Phuket Corruption Probe Begins, Action Planned

Phuket Corruption Probe Begins, Action Planned

Saturday, May 7, 2011
A MAJOR inquiry into corruption on Phuket is concluding this weekend with details on tourist scams and rip-offs being collated. Allegations of large-scale graft by officials and police are also being assessed.

The two-week investigation by a special committee connected to the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission has interviewed leading figures on Phuket, Vice Governor Niwit Aroonrat told Phuketwan yesterday.

The presence of the investigating team on Phuket has been a closely-guarded secret, along with the names of the people who have been interviewed.

It is understood that many of those who were asked to speak to the investigating team were open in naming names and citing instances where rip-offs, scams and graft are thought to be constant and out of control.

One of the investigating team, contacted by Phuketwan, said he was not free to comment or even to confirm that an investigation was taking place.

Leading members of the local Phuket community and some expats are believed to have spoken in detail about corruption on Phuket. It is believed as much attention will be paid to expat corruption as to Thai corruption.

Patong's continuing jet-ski scams and Phuket's extortionate tuk-tuk and taxi fares are certain to have been mentioned often. Action could be taken before the end of May, although as yet there is no indication what form that action might take.

Four aspects are being examined:

1. Entertainment, including clubs, restaurants, conditions, and closing times.
2. Transport, including jet-skis, taxis and tuk-tuks, scams, fares and thuggery.
3. Corruption and tourism, including jewellery price scams.
4. Breaches of law, including the holding of passports, illegal payments, and more.

The fact that a major investigation into corruption on Phuket was coming was revealed on April 18 when Phuketwan learned of a meeting in Bangkok that involved Phuket's Vice Governor Niwit, the Deputy Prime Minister, Suthep Thaugsuban, and vice governors and governors from Thailand's other key tourism destinations.

Vice Governor Niwit said then that special investigators would check on the scope of the graft and rip-offs and report back over a period of six weeks.

Phuketwan has been able to confirm that an intensive investigation has taken place on Phuket since April 25, when the anti-corrruption commission representatives arrived on the island.

What we do not know and cannot say is whether similar inquiries are underway in Pattaya, Chiang Mai or other tourist centres.

The decision by the national government to investigate corruption in Thailand's tourist destinations appears to have sprung from a barrage of complaints by tourists that have been passed on via ambassadors and other envoys to Khun Suthep and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya especially.

Reports to Bangkok on Phuket's lawlessness have become more frequent since the establishment last year of the three-monthly meetings between Phuket's Governor and the island's honorary consuls.

There is no way of knowing at this stage what might be the outcome of the investigation, but journalists on Phuket are unable to recall the last time any senior official - either elected or appointed - was prosecuted for corruption.

Phuketwan has suggested that if this government or its successors wished to attempt to tame corruption nationwide, they should start with Phuket then apply the lessons learned on the island to the rest of the country.

Vice Governor Niwit said yesterday he expected that action would flow from the Phuket corruption probe, even if the government changed at the next election.

Action on jet-skis, tuk-tuks and local taxis would seem most likely given that the office of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva recently wrote to Phuket officials telling them that the regular blockades of cruise ships and US warships for a share of customers must cease.

A meeting of locals in Patong last year produced an admission that 14 government departments or agencies were taking illegal payments.

''Phuket is No. 1 for tourist income for Thailand,'' Vice Governor Niwit said. ''If Thailand loses Phuket to corruption, it will lose that source of revenue.''

Singapore's solution to wipe out graft was to prosecute the most prominent corrupt people in government and business.

At the same time, a new, clean culture of uncorrupt officials commenced and operated separately to those who had been taught that graft was part of the game.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Definitely the dive industry in Phuket, Phang-Nga and Krabi need a complete clean-up as large foreign dominated dive operators are using bribes to corrupt civil servants to employ dozens of freelance foreign instructors with a work-permit by setting a Thai company or without work-permit at the expenses of Thai local dive operators.
As they are no serious control about the money invested (2M Baht for 1 work-permit) to set up the Thai company as well the ration of 4 Thai staffs/1foreigner for 1 work-permit, Phuket and Thailand will become an Eldorado for opportunists in greedy businesses and conflicts between Thai operated businesses and foreigners grabbing large part of businesses though bribes will intensify in the near future.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on May 7, 2011 14:21

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Hopefully we'll be seeing some pictures in your publication of corrupt officials and con men being carted off to the island's overcrowded prison and hopefully with their assets being ceased, now that would be a story for the honest hard working people of Phuket to applaud.

Posted by Scunner on May 7, 2011 16:38

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This is the best news this year yet.

The fact that it's been conducted in secrecy gives hope to it not being just another window dressing attempt.

Posted by Chris on May 7, 2011 19:10

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A pity this 'special committee' didn't have an Open Day where anyone could turn up, tell their story and point a finger or two.

I'd have been there in a heartbeat.

Posted by Mike Boyd on May 7, 2011 20:51

Editor Comment:

There are anti-corruption organisations that can be contacted anytime, Mike. You could make a telephone call on Monday.

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Come on, Ed. You can't just leave it there!

Give us a clue what their names are or give us a phone number and I'll call them!

Posted by Mike Boyd on May 8, 2011 01:28

Editor Comment:

The telephone directory service is on offer with our 10-year subscription plan, Mike.

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It would be nice if they could follow the Singapore model but it's not going to be easy. Still you have to commend those willing to try. I guess will have to wait and see if this is just another bout of lip service or people actually want change.

Posted by Graham on May 8, 2011 11:38

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OK, Ed, I'll bite: How much?

Posted by Mike Boyd on May 10, 2011 18:08

Editor Comment:

Paywalls don't have great appeal, but the ''internet free'' model doesn't have a future. We hope Phuketwan does.


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