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Details of Phuket corruption emerge: Patong Mayor Pian Keesin speaks

Phuket Corruption: Enough, Say Patong Victims

Wednesday, October 6, 2010
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THE FULL EXTENT of corruption on Phuket was revealed today when the head of Patong's entertainment association said that local venues were prepared to continue to make corrupt payments to 14 government offices and branches - but that was enough.

Requests from three additional government bodies to also gain under the table payments have the Phuket venues throwing up their hands saying, in effect: ''We can tolerate corruption, but anything beyond 14 organisations is just plain greedy.''

Today's revelation would have little meaning for the thousands of tourists who descend on Phuket, except that all the costs of corruption are passed on. The tourists are the ones who pay.

If the tourists happen to be among those who enjoy partying beyond Phuket's legal closing time, then they are also among those who benefit.

Weerawit Kuresombut, President of the Entertainment Association in Patong, made his feelings known this afternoon at a public seminar called by the Mayor of Patong, Pian Keesin, to discuss 'The Future of Patong.'

Phuket people had widely discussed in advance that Patong's overdose of corruption would be the key topic.

''We are happy to pay 14,'' said Khun Weerawit, who represents about 400 bars and clubs in Patong. ''But if other groups come to ask, we will need to negotiate with them first. If we cannot make a deal, we cannot guarantee what is going to happen.''

Phuketwan understands that there are about 500 retail outlets in Patong, both large and small, that also make corrupt payments to a number of government offices and branches. Again, all the extra costs eventually are passed on to tourists.

At the completion of today's seminar, Khun Weerawit told journalists in an interview that small retail outlets usually handed over about 20,000 baht a month in corrupt payments while a large Phuket nightclub would be obliged to give as much as 120,000 baht a month to their 14 ''partners.''

If the payments were not made to the corrupt government branches and offices, prices in Patong would fall by about 50 percent, Khun Weerawit said in response to a question from Phuketwan.

The corrupt payments, always made in cash, are usually recorded in account books as ''rent.'' The system is widely understood and tolerated on Phuket because in the end, it's the tourists who pay.

The seminar at the Loma Park football field in Patong attracted an audience of about 500 people, including a number of vendors and a united group of tuk-tuk, taxi and motorcycle taxi riders. The taxi and tuk-tuk drivers arrived on foot, in a parade, carrying a banner that advocated the building of a tunnel under Patong Hill.

The tunnel is a favorite project of Mayor Pian, whose son Preechavude ''Prab'' Keesin is president of the Taxi Federation of Patong.

Discussion turned to corruption when Khun Prab, sitting in the audience, asked his father a question about parking and noise in Patong.

Mayor Pian said the next generation was smart, but not always direct. ''You are really talking about corruption, right?'' he told his son. ''I will talk to the people who ask the money from you.

''Important people in Bangkok know where the problem is. I will fix it for you.''

Soon after Khun Pian had spoken, Khun Weerawit took the microphone and told the crowd that Patong's venues were prepared to continue to make corrupt payments to the existing 14 government offices and branches - but now several more government organisations were also requesting regular illegal payments.

Next month, 1500 delegates are coming to Bangkok from more than 130 countries for the International Anti-Corruption Conference.

Prime Minister Abhist Vejjajiva has already begun to make remarks about the importance of finding a solution for corruption in Thailand.


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