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Opinion: The never-ending battle to protect Thai tourism

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: The recent arrest of a businessman for allegedly faking a Thai national identification card is just the latest development in the seemingly never-ending battle to protect the Thai tourism industry from illegal foreign opportunists.

Thai authorities are, of course, correct to prosecute, to the full extent of the law, any foreigner who would resort to forgery in an attempt to carve out a slice of the lucrative Thai tourism pie. We hope, however, that future enforcement as it pertains to guides adheres to the true intent of the law – otherwise it could serve as a high-capacity vehicle for extortion, collusion and nationalist-driven folly.

As has often been pointed out in this space over the years, existing Thai Labor Law is intentionally vague when it comes to defining what exactly constitutes work. The modern classic ‘Working of Alien Act (2008)’ defines work as follows: exerting energy or using knowledge whether or not for wages or other benefits.

Indeed, under such a sloppy definition, one could easily run afoul of the Act simply by getting out of bed in the morning, or, in the more specific case of ‘guiding’, by simply directing a spatially-confused foreigner to the nearest bank, bus stop or brothel.

Fortunately, reports of authorities taking undue advantage of the absurd wording of the Act have been fairly few and far between. However, a few high-profile cases, such as the arrest of volunteers here to assist in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami disaster and the arrest of a foreigner caught ‘red-handed’ working on a boat in his own backyard, serve to remind all of our friends in the expat community just how tenuous day-to-day life can be in Thailand – especially if one has managed to rub someone in a position of authority the wrong way.

Of course, with each emerging inbound market, there are corresponding outcries from legally-registered guides who see their turf, quite literally, being encroached upon. First, it was the South Koreans. Then the Russians. Now we are seeing similar whining over the mainland Chinese, who comprise the greatest, and final, frontier of Phuket tourism.

We hope that the government at senior levels will continue to reduce the number of instances in which their more junior officers abuse the law for their own personal benefit, at the expense of Thai tourism and the country’s long-challenged image overseas.

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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