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Colonel Ekachai Prammanakol: Know when to be wary, he says

Guide to Tourist Traps: Phuket Police Chief Tells

Tuesday, December 1, 2009
AT THE START of Phuket's high season, Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob has warned visitors and expat residents who get into trouble to seek help from reliable sources.

His advice follows concern at the promotion of the services of ''Alex,'' an anonymous part-time bail bondsman, with one report suggesting tourists should call him if they need help.

The governor told Phuketwan that regular police, tourist police, embassy officials and honorary consuls have the best interests of tourists at heart. They were the ones to contact.

''As the Governor, I wish I could help everybody,'' he said. ''But there are other, reliable people whose job it is to help, without concern for their own interests.''

His views were echoed by the Chief of the Tourist Police, Colonel Ekachai Prammanakol.

The colonel has a force of 20 tourist police and 70 volunteers. But as with the local police, who also have to deal with numbers that are out of proportion to resources, the tourist police are sometimes stretched.

Phuket sends two tourist police to work in Phang Nga during the high season. The governor's ''1000 eyes of the pineapple'' scheme finds volunteer support for the island's limited police contingent, and Colonel Ekachai is going to innovative lengths to improve the service from tourist police as more tourists arrive.

He has contacted tourist police in Thailand's Isarn provinces to seek high-season reinforcements.

Colonel Ekachai said there was a time when tourist police alone had three complaints a week from visitors about jet-ski scams. There had been none since the introduction of an insurance scheme, he said.

Here's his quick guide to what tourists and residents should look out for, although Phuket is not exceptional. Most holiday destinations around the world have similar scams:

Tuk-Tuks Prices on Phuket are higher than anywhere else in Thailand. Negotiate the fare before you get into the vehicle. Make sure the tuk-tuk fare quoted is for a group, not for each individual. The best tuk-tuk drivers are able to show a list of scheduled fares between destinations on the island. During daylight hours, consider the alternative of the traditional two-bench buses that criss-cross some key parts of the island.

Ladyboys If in doubt, ask. While Phuket is home to many trans-gender people who are honest, some ladyboys try to make quick money from deceptions of all kinds. Never was the phrase '' Buyer Beware'' more appropriate. Avoid groups of ladyboys in Patong, and make sure you ask whether there's a fee involved before you pose for a photograph with ladyboys.

Bar Girls Watch your wallet. Some bar girls in Patong have been known to take advantage of customers who have too much to drink or fall asleep. They figure most people will be too embarrassed to go to police. And they're right. Don't forget to make sure someone you trust is looking after your drink if you wish to avoid the risk of being drugged. Never hold a cigarette pack or any kind of bag or container for someone you do not know.

Beach Vendors Ever wondered whether your friend back home needs a copy watch that comes without a guarantee? By all means, have fun bargaining down prices on offer on the beach. But don't buy on impulse. Check out the value of the items at other stores off the beach. If you don't like the idea of being hassled on the beach, don't buy from vendors.

Credit Cards Don't use credit cards for small purchases, except in reputable stores. Going to an ATM should be safer, provided you choose an ATM in a secure location. Quick copies can be made of credit cards, and your ATM password information can be at risk in outdoor cubicles. Look for an ATM inside a bank

Time Share Touts The number of street salesmen has grown and time share touts seem to be multiplying in Patong. But why would you buy anything on the recommendation of someone who hassles you on holiday? If you are serious about looking at ownership options, look for help from someone not involved in the hard-sell. .
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Comments

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Wow, this is a great list, notable not only in the frank admission of some of Phuket's realities, but most of all in its source, the head of the Tourist Police.

Well done, Col. Ekachai!

Posted by D on December 1, 2009 16:41

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An excellent article also applicable to other destinations.

Posted by Mike on December 1, 2009 16:44

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What does that mean? : "Never hold a cigarette pack or any kind of bag or container for someone you do not know."

Drugs?

Editor: People charged with drug possession sometimes claim another person passed them the ''cigarette pack'' to look after briefly just before the police moved in.

Posted by Lena on December 1, 2009 19:13

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EXCELLENT - at last an official giving good advice and not just shrugging his shoulders - That's why he hold the rank of Colonel! - well done

Posted by Taras on December 1, 2009 20:55

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This is generally a good article, but it unreasonably tells us that scams like this should be expected in tourist spots the world over. That's simply not true. Based on personal experience living in more than seven tourist destinations around the Pacific, I can say that Thailand is by far the worst I've encountered for scamming, rip-offs, and government laziness-or-complicity.

As a simple proof that you can do yourself, try using Google Earth and Google streetview to examine popular hotel row beachfronts. You'll see that Patong's beachfront, for example, is by far more clogged with beachwalking vendors, rental beachchairs covering all suitable sandy sitting spots, and taxis and vehicles-for-rent taking up all available beachfront parking.

DON'T allow yourself to believe that it's the same worldwide. Phuket's tragic tourist trap is far, far worse than the norm.

Editor:The article's introduction says, ''Go to most destinations and you will find people preying on the gullibility of tourists.'' We don't find that unreasonable, or untrue..

Posted by Reality Checker on December 11, 2009 00:37

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If these problems are so apparent and even to the police etc then how about tackling these problems? There's a thought!

Posted by Goldman on December 13, 2009 16:47


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