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Collector Saichon Chotdee is arrested outside a Phuket tailor shop

Ten Phuket Tailors Lift Lid on Billions of Baht in Phuket Graft

Saturday, September 3, 2011
News Analysis

PHUKET: Ten honest Phuket tailors, forced to pay millions of baht in bribes, today lifted the lid on huge corruption payouts that amount to billions of baht each year on Thailand's most popular holiday island.

The figures mentioned by the tailors today to Phuketwan after they gave evidence to MPs from the Standing Committee of Anti-Corruption and Good Governance of the Senate confirms that the amounts involved in graft on Phuket are massive.

The Senate committee is in the midst of a three day investigation on Phuket in which evidence is being heard from witnesses alleging corruption by senior Phuket police. It is believed some senior Phuket police have already spoken to the committee in Bangkok.

Honorary consuls once labelled Phuket ''the most corrupt province in Thailand,'' with as many as 14 government agencies said by locals to be involved in graft in the west coast holiday capital of Patong alone.

And the bottom line to all Phuket graft - along with the extortionate fares demanded by the tuk-tuk and taxi monopoly - is that the tourists from all over the world who visit Phuket ultimately pay for it all.

Estimates of the amount that corruption and the tuk-tuk monopoly add to the cost of a trip to Phuket vary, but they add 20 or 30 percent to a holiday for visitors who frequently use tuk-tuks or who buy souvenirs from stalls along the west coast of Phuket at Patong, Karon, Kata and Kamala.

Linked to the corruption allegations is the scandalous treatment of immigrants to Thailand, who often find themselves paying bribes to enter the country, then regularly on demand for the privilege of performing the most menial jobs.

Burmese laborers in construction or serving in restaurants or performing household duties without proper work permits are seen as easy marks for corrupt Thai police on Phuket.

The Nepalese tailors who gave evidence to the committee today are victims of a similar abuse scam - they have permission to stay and work in Thailand, but not as tailors.

To come forward today to speak to the Senate committee, the 10 Nepalese tailors required courage. But the levels of extortion, they say, have become too great for them to continue to live in fear as graft victims.

The committee conducted its hearing behind closed doors this morning and again this afternoon at Provincial Hall in Phuket City.

One Nepalese tailor told Phuketwan later: ''There are about 100 tailor shops in Kata Karon [a popular Phuket holiday spot south of Patong] and all of us pay bribes every month.

''I have five staff, so I pay 10,000 baht a month - 2000 baht for each of them. How many millions of baht do the tailors of Kata-Karon pay?

''We reckon they pay at least 1.5 million baht a month. Add to that the amount paid by hundreds of copy shops selling pirate goods of all kinds, and you have an idea of the scale of the corruption.''

All over Phuket, adding in bribes paid by bars for staying open beyond closing time, for resorts avoiding prosecution for waste water discharge and other breaches of regulations, and for having permission granted for all kinds of simple requests, and corruption on Phuket amounts to untold billions.

Whether this particular investigation lifts the lid more generally on corruption on Phuket and triggers healthy changes remains to be seen. At present, the committee is investigating allegations against three senior police, an administrative official, and the man who collected the money each month.

The identity of the graft collector was revealed with the arrest of Saichon Chotdee in mid-August. But Khun Saichon was unusually granted bail in the early hours of the morning after his arrest.

He always provided the tailors with receipts for their 2000 baht payments.

Along with a Phuket vice governor, Khun Saichon is to provide information to the committee.

However, connecting Khun Saichon to those who actually keep the money may not be as straightforward as it seems.

News of the Senate investigation comes amid heartening signs that the embassies of some foreign countries are prepared to insist on improvements on Phuket that will protect their nationals from thuggery, scams and extortion.

Whether their concern extends to the graft and corruption that is actually paid for by all tourists who visit Phuket is another issue.

And the new Thai government probably does not need reminding that without extortion, thuggery, environmental degradation and corruption, Phuket would certainly rank among the world's finest tourist destinations.

Senate Committee Chairman Senator Jongrak Jutanant, a retired police general, told Phuketwan the investigation was 80 percent complete.

He aimed to return to Phuket in two weeks, then to forward the committee's report to Cabinet for action.

Phuketwan was the only English-language news organisation with a reporter at the meeting.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Forgive me, but wouldn't tailoring fall under the category of "Dressmaking" which is one of the forbidden occupations for foreigners in Thailand? That being the case, what are Nepalese tailors doing working anywhere in Thailand?

It doesn't excuse the forceful paying of bribes, but I think any foreigner willing to break the law in order to work is just asking for trouble.

Posted by Xircal on September 3, 2011 18:11

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Good article, a well known tourist attraction allegedly cannot afford to lower its prices because of backhanders it is forced to pay to taxis, who in turn will not allow other means of getting there (other than private car of course ) .

Posted by CL on September 3, 2011 19:59

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It is about time they cracked down in BKK as well!

Posted by Anonymous on September 3, 2011 20:37

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So let's see, the Nepalese are complaining because they have to pay 2,000 baht per month per employee to keep open their ILLEGAL businesses and be able to make enough money to stay in Thailand? Shouldn't they just be deported? They're breaking the law by working illegally.

Posted by Ken on September 3, 2011 20:39

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no sympathy, they get on everyones nerves and theyr'e doing a thai person's job! that's why the fines are there.

Posted by poppop on September 3, 2011 20:45

Editor Comment:

What fines, poppop?

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This is an excellent article. (moderated)

Posted by Jesse Schule on September 3, 2011 22:40

Editor Comment:

Personal insults aren't permitted, Jesse.

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Corruption has skyrocketed since the coup according to Transparency International figures. Hopefully this new democratically elected government can do something about this. Abhisit and the Democrats only made things worse.

Posted by Orange_Eagle on September 4, 2011 08:07

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Just wait to see what happens if they get close to those taking money. The standard practice is to transfer the people involved to another location so they will not be available. Then the case just dies and no one goes to jail and the cycle starts all over again.

Posted by mike on September 4, 2011 10:12

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@Alan,

I was complimenting you on your article, and offering constructive criticism on your attitude and your arrogance. It is not like you never use colorful adjectives to describe the people who comment on your articles?

Posted by Jesse Schule on September 4, 2011 12:38

Editor Comment:

I stick with what the people are saying, Jesse, unless they slip from principles into personal abuse first. Most readers are probably bored with those who take that route. I know I am.

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One wonder why they come out now...
btw. from whom they buy the silk?
Sometimes its good to have the right business connections.

Posted by Lena on September 4, 2011 16:52

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Why does the article call these ILLEGAL aliens "immigrants"? These Nepalese tailors shouldnt even be here in the first place, and so they pay bribes to keep their ILLEGAL business going. Sure, corruption is terrible, none more so then the corruption that lets these people stay in Thailand illegaly. Just flush them out, who will miss these irritating touts anyway?
If you live by the sword you die by the sword.

Posted by christian on September 5, 2011 12:20

Editor Comment:

Because, christian, without the illegals the graft disappears.

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Tackle the tuk-tuk problems first, it is destroying the image of phuket.

Remove the two-tier pricing.....visitors came back for its cheap food and services, it is a major turn-off for repeat visitors like us.

Posted by windersports on June 18, 2013 17:16

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The corruption starts at the top and works its way down, not just a matter of stopping the chain near the bottom, because the people at the top will just get those positions filled again, will be a long process goverments since the 50's have been trying, although one thinks not to hard

Posted by Michael on June 18, 2013 23:26

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Why are you so selective in what you post sir?
I made a couple of points that should have been easily answerable by you, but instead get nothing.Why?
Surely, if comments are made about sometjhing that you were vague or even wrong[shudder to use that word with you, because in your mind you never are wrong, but fairs fair].
Comments are said to be welcome on here, and you should remember that every comment is made by one of your millions of readers,who, by reading give you your numbers of readers, which in turn attracts sponsors which enables this blog site of your to remain viable.
You treat readers with disdain,and then complain when they make this point to you and then you red card, edit or just ignore your most precious commodity..Us, your readers!!

Posted by mal on June 19, 2013 09:27

Editor Comment:

We don't treat readers with disdain, far from it. We provide them with the fastest and most accurate news coverage we can, day after day, around the clock, whether we're asleep or awake. The quality of our journalism has been acknowledged with international awards. It is you who treat us with disdain. And in our opinion, your opinions do not meet with the policy of this site. We want information and value-added comments, not finger-pointing or legally risky assertions that you, as a three-letter digital anony, so often make without proper consideration of your lack of credibility or evidence. Phuketwan has to bear the consequences. We choose not to take responsibility for your mal-adroit assertions and claims. As someone who abuses rather than uses our service, please do all readers a favor by not wasting my time.

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IN other words you are too shit scared to post facts that arew well know to all except , apparently yourself..its all your way or no way isn't it?
You are so scared of upsetting the real powerbrokers who in fact are your string pullers!
You only denounce and expose those who you are given permission to do so to from your handlers.
Its so very,very obvious to all who read this blog.

Like many say..It is a great news outlet, no denial at all , but your comments border on insane ..mostly!!

Posted by mal on June 19, 2013 09:55

Editor Comment:

For a three-letter anony, you certainly have a lot to say. And as always, you make the mistake of confusing the online world or rabid quickfire opinions with the real world, where all actions have consequences. The one and only thing that scares us is being held responsible for your opinions. What do we tell those people who live and work in the real word, operating by the rules of the real world? ''Oh, it must be true. mal says so.'' That's your insanity.


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