Over 400 Thai firms suspected of foreign nominee operations

Picture courtesy of ThaiPost

An inspection by the Business Development Department has revealed that over 400 firms across Thailand’s major tourist hotspots may be operating under foreign nominees. The firms under scrutiny are located in bustling provinces including Phuket, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Surat Thani, and Chon Buri. The businesses investigated span various sectors, such as tour guides, restaurants, car rentals, hotels, and real estate.

The Director-General of the Business Development Department, Auramon Supthaweethum, announced yesterday that the inspection targeted companies suspected of acting as nominees for foreign corporations. Of the 419 firms identified, 313 were commanded to provide additional documents for further verification.

In collaboration with the Tourism Department and the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), the department is also examining 59 firms in Phuket believed to be functioning as nominees. One such firm is the Elephant Sanctuary Park Phuket, run by Urs David Fehr, a 45 year old Swiss national, and his Thai wife, Khanuengnit. Fehr recently made headlines for allegedly assaulting a doctor he accused of trespassing on his rented property.

However, an inquiry showed that the firm, registered as a tour guide business, is not operating under a nominee. The shares are divided, with 51% held by Khanuengnit and another Thai shareholder, while Fehr owns the remaining 49%.

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The aforementioned inspection came in the wake of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by the Tourism Department to eradicate proxy tourism businesses. Six agencies have teamed up for this cause, including the Tourism Department, the Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the Business Development Department, the DSI, the Tourist Police Bureau, and the Immigration Bureau.

An operation centre has been established at the Tourism Department to address the issue of proxy businesses. Additionally, a joint panel has been convened to devise measures to enhance the standard of tourism businesses.

In a separate development related to the assault case involving Fehr, Phuket’s deputy governor, Sattha Thongkham, revealed that they have proposed to revoke Fehr’s visa due to his behaviour, deeming it a threat to public order and safety. However, the final decision lies with the court, as Fehr has the right to stay in Thailand to defend himself in the legal case, reported Bangkok Post.

Furthermore, the location of the assault, a staircase at Yamu Beach in Thalang district, is being demolished by the local municipality after being found to encroach on public land. Police have vowed to inspect all public areas in Phuket for similar violations.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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