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A jetski row plays out on Patong beach, with a police officer intervening

Phuket 'Tourist Court' Plan To Tackle Injustice

Thursday, December 11, 2008
THE Governor of Phuket, Dr Preecha Ruangjan, is considering the concept of a special Tourist Court to speed judgement on visitors who commit petty criminal offences or become involved in costly disputes.

Summary justice combined with compulsory jetski insurance would solve many problems associated with tourists who are often forced to surrender their passports when they are arrested.

Confiscation of passports sometimes results in wayward tourists spending weeks longer than they intended on Phuket, and, in effect, increasing the penalty out of all proportion to the crime.

The governor, new to Phuket and its problems, is also looking closely at the use of jetskis on Phuket beaches, and the whole issue of tuk-tuks on the island.

The review is timely because an economic crisis in tourism will mean that there are simply too many tuk-tuks and jetskis for the present growing number of operators to survive next year's severe downturn.

Accusations of excessive tuk-tuk prices and jetski ''scams'' are also turning tourists away from Phuket at a time when Phuket needs to clean up its image.

Most tourist complaints to the Tourism Authority of Thailand concern the high price of tuk-tuks. Prices charged by drivers on Phuket are higher than anywhere else in Thailand.

Since a previous governor decided several years ago that jetskis should be phased out, the opposite has occurred.

Phuket has never had more jetskis, and never had so many accusations of jetski-related ''scams.''

Phuketwan has been told of one case where a British tourist was asked to hand over 230,000 baht for spurious ''damage'' to a jetski.

Another tourist, this time from Australia, handed over 100,000 baht in a similar false claim.

While Thais are hospitable and honest, a small minority in Patong see tourists as a source of quick, easy money.

Compulsory insurance for jetskis and rental motorcycles would push up costs, but eliminate hardship in case of serious accident and the ''scams.''

A Tourist Court has been suggested to the governor to solve other problems in Patong, especially cases where tourists commit minor crimes, often while drunk.

Passports are confiscated out of concern that offenders may abscond before a case is settled.

The practical injustice becomes evident in cases of petty theft especially.

When a young tourist who has been caught shoplifting a 50 baht chocolate bar from a convenience store has to stay on Phuket for an extra month awaiting a court appearance, the cost to the individual could tally thousands of dollars.

The person charged may have to pay for a flight home that they cannot catch, additional accommodation for the extended period, then a new flight home.

When the accused does eventually appear in court, the fine for such a minor crime can be determined as just 1000 baht or 1500 baht. But the practical penalty imposed amounts to thousands of dollars, and perhaps also a loss of income at home.

In some cases, family members also come to Phuket to help, adding to the extraordinary cost.

Similar hardship is caused in cases of uninsured motorcycle or jetski accidents, especially where serious injury occurs.

One case on the island where a young rider was injured involved his father mortgaging the family home to cover the cost of his son's treatment after a crash on an uninsured motorcycle.

With up to 50 percent fewer tourists forecast to visit the island next year, more people now making money from the industry are expected to turn to crime to make ends meet.

Governor Preecha appears to be reacting now to long-standing problems to stave off the inevitable negative social consequences of the airports blockade.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Well I do think that is a good idea, to speed up the judicial process. But committing a crime while at home is bad enough, but to do it abroad is just stupid. For them I have no sympathy if they do what they did on purpose.

As for all the illegally run firms that offer no insurance and other scams. This should be intolerable by Phuket, as tourists are the bread and butter of Phuket, although a lot of the money is funneled into the rest of Thailand.

Upon hearing stories like this, its a wonder why anyone would want to come here and sample the life. It seems better if they just pick a resort and never leave it.

Crime happens so often and the person who loses out in most cases are the Farang. Failing that bribery by the highest bidder fixes the problems.

Tuk-Tuks need to be regulated. Set prices for distances (like a proper taxi) ALL of them should be metered.

Maybe I am becoming cynical, but I have witnessed people being ripped off, even stood up to people threatening tourists and been threatened myself for helping them.

The police always ask for money and then everything calms down . . .

Posted by Anonymous on December 11, 2008 20:52

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As a foreign volunteer with the Phuket Tourist Police, I am well aware of the continual problem with jetski operators bullying and threatening tourists to pay excessive amounts for damage that may or may not have occurred to their jetskis.

Sometimes accidents and damage does occur, but the amounts demanded by the jetski operators is wholly out of proportion to the amount of damage. Threats of physical violence against the tourist, often by a group of physically fit young 'beach-boys' is commonplace. These threats are made against single tourists and families alike.

The Phuket Tourist Police have placed signs in Bangla Road advising tourists not to rent any jetski that is uninsured. (That probably means nearly 100% of the jetskis!). But it is advice that tourists should heed. If the jetski is not insured, (and many carry large stickers advising this fact), then do not rent it and take your money elsewhere.

Sooner or later, jetski operators who only operate for their own benefit and not for the benefit of tourists will be forced out of business.

Posted by Simon Luttrell on December 12, 2008 21:51

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The mere fact that a Tourist Court is needed in Phuket is a screaming message to tourists. "Scam City! Stay Away!"
Good luck, but my family and I threw in the towel on Phuket and have already moved on to safer holiday venues in Malaysia.
Sad, but it appears inferior values are destined to reduce any Thai holiday venue to that of the Pattaya cesspool. And Phuket is definitely getting there.
I have no religious bias, but root Malaysian values do not accept the Thai levels of corruption. Move on.

Posted by Moved On on December 23, 2008 09:21

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Cant agree more on the comments above. Patong is NOT a safe place to be. What's the point of spending a lot of money on Holiday when you cannot ride around after dark due to the muggings by locals on bikes then you leave the bike in the hotel and you're ripped off by tuk tuk drivers or taxi bikes? If that's not bad enough, jet ski workers deliberately tamper with the jet ski by blocking a fuel line meaning that out in the sea, you have to be towed back in, to face the prospect of paying for the damage, which is superficial. Then there's the rip off when you buy T-shirts souvenirs and the constant hassle of beach sellers. How can it be right that at a vendor selling chicken pieces a local will pay 15-20 baht but a falang buying the same the price is doubled. We in the uk know what is happening in places like patong karon & kata and I can assure the mayor that if the problems are not addressed quickly people will go elsewhere and the greed and crime will will damage you forever. You have had enough warnings but yet prices and crime and corruption are on the increase with nothing being done.

Posted by william dale on December 26, 2008 05:21

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I think its time that the Tuk-Tuk operators were regulated and made to use set fares or meters. The so called "taxi drivers" (shopping touts) in Phuket town should be arrested - they prey on tourists arriving at sister hotels from the beach areas and tote them around gem stores etc seeking commissions. people are becoming tired of being ripped off on this Thai island and are starting to go to Malaysia - Something needs to be done

Posted by Anonymous on January 6, 2009 16:53

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I shall be going to Penang in future. Phuket is full on time share/scratch card pests, shopping touts, dishonest street vendors and restaurants that double the price for a white face! - WHY go back to be hit twice?

Posted by Terry on January 6, 2009 20:49

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I must agree with the fact just mentioned that these "scratch and win" (every card!) timeshare people are an absolute nuisance. You try to be nice and say "no thanks" but they follow you and keep badgering. You just get rid of one and yet another rides up on a scooter or jumps out from around a corner. My wife and I were approached by at least four one morning in the space of two hours. I dont know where they all come from. When you have been in Phuket a week or more it can really become annoying as some appear to work different pitches on different days. We heard of one couple who spent three hours listening to high pressure sales pattere. Who wants to waste their holiday doing that? - I doubt Phuket will ever get rid of these pests. they may be "earning a living" but when its commission only they can become very cut throat indeed.

Then we go on a coach (having arrived on a cruise ship one year) and we are made to wear stick-on numbers like cattle on the guise that the drivers need to know what coach we are on - ("PLEASE do not take these off while you shop in the gold store") - We all KNOW that the wearing of the number ensures they get their commission - and we all feel like sheep!

yes we too encountered the taxi shopping touts in Phuket town when we were dropped off by the hotel shuttle. They pounce on you like a pack of vulture "Mister - town too far come my taxi - no shop here" - What makes these guys think there in nothing in the world a couple on holiday want to see other that shops?

Thai people themselves are nice and pleasant however there is a small number of people on Phuket who are ready to scam anyone with a suitcase and camera and that is very sad.

With the damage that has already been done to the tourist trade with what has happened in the past here I am amazed that while laying off hotel staff suffering a severe downturn in tourists the powers that be do not clamp down on all these scams - be warned - Once the tourists go - Phuket has nothing going for it and its people. The time has come for them to get rid of these scammers and sharks and treat the tourist with a bit more respect and regard - MOST ARE NOT THAT STUPID!!!

Posted by Colin Wilcox - Australia on January 7, 2009 16:47

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We are going at the weekend for 10 days as a last try (having been before and not impressed). We know of a couple who's son went last year, 2007 and he was taken on a trailer with a supposedly damaged jet ski to some back lane and he was made to hand over 6000bht from an ATM for damage to a fuel line. The jetski was back in the water next morning. Maybe we should take over a few 160Kg Australian doormen this time@!

Posted by Trying one more time on January 7, 2009 18:14

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I TOO am sick of these scratch and win time share hustlers - throw the lot out!

Posted by Gordon in Sydney on January 7, 2009 19:22

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Why do the Thais allow these time share scams to damage their reputation and the tourist trade - we had it too and will never go back we were threatened and abused by one on a scooter who reeked of alcohol and told us we were "Aussie tossers" because we refused to go and get the prize. I seriously thought of filling this bloke's face with my fist (Im a former army boxing champion) - But I was on holiday with my two kids.
Editor: A wise decision. Thais are harsh on people who settle arguments with physical violence.

Posted by Steve Perth on January 7, 2009 20:40

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The first thing the mayor and the Thai governement needs to do is double or triple Police salaries, engage trainers from overseas and initiate an official Anti Corruption Commission as a watchdog over the Police. Any officer caught accepting financial inducement should be very harshly dealt with. They had the same probem 30 years ago in Hong Kong. If the Police can be paid off you have lost the battle before firing a bullet.
Thailand is a lovely country. Patong is a nice place but cannot be a great place while authorities/police turn a blind eye to jetski scams and time share touts completley spoiling peoples time on holiday. Also the Governement should run a campaign based on trating the tourist fairly - get rid of the bad ones and let the good ones make a living.

Posted by Lisa Wardale - Perth WA on January 8, 2009 06:28

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It seems like tourists are backing off coming to Phuket. I have just received an email from Tiger Airways saying that the morning flight to and from Singapore next month is cancelled, they just transfer you to the night flights. If you don't like the flights they put you on you have to change them at your cost or lose the lot.

Posted by Terry - Perth on January 8, 2009 06:38

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i strongly disagree with the comments about timeshare, ive worked in patong as a sales rep and i truly believe that it brings great savings and quality to peoples holidays. we are proud to work in a non obligational way with no presure at all. if after the presentation the client says no, they are always wished a great holiday, recieve there gift and are put back on there holiday. i have made many friends with the members i have signed up and email me all the time to let me know where they have just been, how much money it saved them and what a good time they had. people are confusing the new system with the old. i have never met anyone who was able to muster the courage to buy to be disappointed.

Posted by david on January 8, 2009 11:28

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I read that the hotels are offering big discounts and dropping prices - i was tempted but ran the gauntlet of scam traders and scratch tickets two years back - I swore I'd never go again so afraid even the big price drop wont get me back - I'm very happy with penang

Posted by Simon - in Australia on January 8, 2009 13:40

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Im afraid I have to strongly disagree with David. Whilst this is not the place to start a discussion on time share these "OCP" people ARE a nuisance/peristent/abusive at times and can also smell of alcohol after luchtime. As anyone who had endured a week or more of the daily badgering - People on holiday dont want that - If you really want a time share bargain (do you?) check out the pages of reduced price bargains on the net! - people cant wait to unload them.
If Thailand stopped these touts and pests people WOULD holiday there again - its as simple as that

Posted by Ian Trew - Australia on January 8, 2009 14:50

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Give David my email address He can meet me! I am very disappointed with mine, bought last year.

Posted by Martin Ruane on January 8, 2009 14:54

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Hey - Phuket isnt that bad! - Just ignore the scratch ticket vendors. Dont stay away just because of them, they are only on Patong beach front anyway. Sureley 95% of visitors are wised up to them now. They are only trying to get the FIRST TIME visitor to attend the sales pitch for their commissions, however even some hotels are advising clients about the scratch tickets. Give Phuket a go and youll find its a great place on the whole. Its still a good holiday destination and some of the resorts are spectacular. Just avoid patong as we do

Posted by karina @ James Adelaide SA on January 9, 2009 08:26

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The problem is not Phuket. Phuket is just fine.The problem is the tourists themselves. If you have a positive personality you will have a great time and enjoy yourself in Phuket. But looking at some tourists, their sad faces, the way they behave, i wonder why they are here in the first place. So miserable, complaining about everything. Sure they not enjoy Phuket, but I don't think they enjoy they lives at all, here or in their country. There is nothing wrong with Phuket. It's a fantastic place. DON'T LIKE IT? MAYBE THE PROBLEM LIES INSIDE YOU . . . RIGHT??

Posted by moses on January 12, 2009 12:53

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having read all the comments on this site i'd just like to give my honest opinion on phuket, which includes patong, kata, karon, ive been here numerous times since 1989, in the early years i was here i thought i'd found paradise,everyone i met,thais included were really friendly and helpful,caring and couldn't do enough to help you, this continued for many years up until 3/4years ago. i saw it was gradually getting worse each time i visited. i have many friends who own bars there, so visit often. my last 2 visits have seen the scam artists getting worse. tuk tuk drivers have driven the price up that much a london black cab is cheaper, the street vendors must think we were born yesterday, trying to sell a 10 baht piece of chicken for 30-50baht to farangs, ive witnessed countless jet ski scams while sitting on the beach (far too many to mention) and the police are forever holding their grubby hands out fo bribes. these are just a few i have personally witnessed and tried on me, many many people i know have moved on to pastures new, malaysia, philipines, vietnam, cambodia.so phuket beware, people are deserting this once lovely island in their droves because its cheaper and safer elsewhere and just as beautiful, so if the tourist board don't get an iron like grip on all the scams and corruption which is rife in phuket your going to have a paradise island which is almost deserted.

Posted by fequent visitor on May 30, 2009 19:45

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Hy I got a accident in jet ski january 19 2009 by a danish family (Niels Andreasen) They live from thailand . But after 6 months hospital I dont have any news of those Danish .They paid the police and 6000 baht for the jet ski damage but for me and my friend they desapered. I sorry by my english but you know french with english !

Posted by woillard on July 26, 2009 20:50

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it is Dec 19th 2010 and i am reading this article now,
Apparently nothing has been done AT ALL for two years. Corruption needs to end and the police force needs to clean up their act. Tourist on motor-bike= quick income for police. For myself, i am definitely heading to other places for my holidays and never coming back here!

Posted by Enuff is enuff on December 20, 2010 03:11


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