PHUKET: Leading figures in Thailand's tourism industry are keen to know precisely how the Department of Special Investigations plans to proceed with its campaign to clean up Phuket.
The first Crime Crisis Centre is due to open at Phuket International Airport on Friday with a second centre to open soon after.
But Phuketwan has learned that there is discord and debate about how the campaign will proceed.
Last Friday's key meeting in Bangkok, designed to endorse a combined strategy to be followed by the DSI, the Tourism and Sport Ministry, Phuket authorities and Phuket police, exposed some reservations and conflicts.
The Tourist Police representative at the meeting went along with the outlined plans. But sources have told Phuketwan that his boss, the national Tourist Police Chief, later expressed reservations.
He has since overruled the suggestion that the Phuket project should be run from the Tourist Police headquarters in Phuket City.
According to sources who were at the meeting in Bangkok, Phuket Governor Maitree Intrusud asked how the DSI campaign would dovetail with progress already being made on taxis and tuk-tuks by Phuket authorities.
He made the point, one source said, that the ending of the Phuket airport contract with taxis and limos in September was the time to swing into action on that issue, not this week.
There is still no indication as to who will be in charge, which is clearly an important decision.
Ministry of Tourism and Sport officials, unused to roles in law enforcement, are still wondering how they fit with the jigsaw.
How the campaign is going to work could become plainer after a meeting called with some urgency for tomorrow by the Senate Select Committee on Tourism and its straight-shooting chair, Senator Tunyaratt Achariyachai.
A Phuket businesswoman, she is likely to ask questions about objectives and leadership.
While everyone agrees Phuket needs cleaning up, there are still a variety of opinions about how and why, and especially who.
The governor, for example, has no power over the DSI or the Tourist Police or the Royal Thai Police who man Phuket's 10 stations and enforce the law.
The Minister of Tourism and Sport, Somsak Pureesrisak, having listened to complaints from European Union ambassadors and decided to enlist the help of the DSI to fix Phuket's problems, can now only offer suggestions from the sidelines.
What's certainly agreed by everyone - with the possible exception of the Tourist Police - is that it's time action was taken to fix the rip-offs and scams on Phuket.
The underlying corruption? Who knows. But window dressing won't work.
DSI officers have been on Phuket for at least two days already, along with Tourism and Sport officials, scoping out some aspects of the campaign.
When telephone lines are opened once Bangkok police who speak good English arrive on Phuket, it's expected there will be no shortage of callers relating experiences about chronic graft, rip-offs, scams and all kinds of tourism-related problems.
Overnight results should not be expected. There are too many issues on Phuket that have been allowed to fester for too long to expect instant solutions.
Much better for the Crime Crisis Centre teams to collect information and develop a game plan based on what residents, expats and tourists are now likely to feel free to talk about, for the first time.
With the campaign's beginning just a couple of days away, the key questions remain: who will be in charge and who will take responsibility for ensuring a just outcome?
Once those questions have been answered, Phuket's cleaner future can begin to be resolved. The solutions, though, may take a little longer.
I cannot wait for the hotlines to open as I am sure is anyone who has any genuine feeling for this once lovely island.
Maybe the clock cannot be turned back but at least it can be reset.
Posted by Logic on August 7, 2013 19:41