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Pattaya hoteliers complain about alleged “quarantine kickbacks”

Jack Burton

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PHOTO: Returnees face mandatory state quarantine - National News Bureau of Thailand

Hoteliers in Pattaya have made an official complaint about a group of people, claiming to be officials who can ensure their properties will be chosen as quarantine centres, are demanding kickbacks of up to 40%. They are urging the government to look into the issue, but officials have been quick to deny any involvement by legitimate authorities.

Government spokesperson Narumon Pinyosinwat said yesterday that PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered an investigation into the allegations. He has promised to take tough action against anyone “taking advantage of people and business operators during this difficult time.”

The assistant spokeswoman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration also said yesterday that the centre has never sent anyone to coordinate or demand “change” for turning a place into a state quarantine facility.

On Friday Manager Online reported that a “number of people” have been approaching hotel operators in the resort town, offering to ensure their properties are chosen for state quarantine if they pay them up to 40% of what they receive from the government.

The government will pay participating hotels 1,000 baht per person per day for hosting people during their mandatory 14 day quarantine periods. Around 80,000 Thai nationals who have returned from abroad have been placed in quarantine facilities nationwide as a precaution against the spread of Covid-19, some of them hotels..

State agencies choose quarantine sites based on a set of criteria that include hotel licences, a capacity of more than 200 non-carpeted rooms and separate air conditioners for each room. There are several hotels that meet the criteria in Pattaya, where about 10,000 rooms have already been used for the purpose. Since all hotels have been temporarily closed by government order, operators are eager to make any kind of deal that could earn them some money.

But the acting president of the Chon Buri chapter of the Tourism Council of Thailand says a number of hoteliers in Pattaya are reluctant to pursue the deal.

“Although they will be paid 1,000 baht per person per day for 14 days, costs of meals are included, not to mention staff and utility costs. Besides, accepting the deal will disqualify their employees from social security benefits.”

He was referring to compensation their employees would receive from the Social Security Fund, which would end if they are re-employed, even for 14 days. The chapter sent a list of 20 hotels willing to turn their facilities into state quarantine centres, but they have not been inspected by authorities.

“Importantly, a group of people claiming to come from unidentified state agencies have approached us, saying they could make our hotels state quarantine places and we would get 1,000 baht per person per day. The catch? We’ll have to pay them an ‘operation fee’ of 40%.”

The chairman of the Pattaya Business and Tourism Association confirmed the kickback demand at rates between 30% and 40%.

“Even if a hotel does not meet the criteria, these people promised they could coordinate to make it happen. So it’s possible this is teamwork.”

A PBTA adviser confirmed several operators of large and mid-sized hotels had been approached but most had turned down the offer as they viewed it was not worth it to reopen their hotels.

SOURCES: Chiang Rai Times | Bangkok Post

 

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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