So far the blitz has been “well received”, Karon Police Deputy Superintendent Narong Laksanawimon told the Gazette on Wednesday.
The tour counters allegedly specializing in Russian services were individually owned and operated by Thais – not backed by major inbound tour handlers – Lt Col Narong said.
“The tour counter operators have cooperated well with police and they no longer have Russian nationals sitting at the counters selling tours to Russian tourists anymore,” he explained.
“We have checked and confirmed that the tour counters belong to Thai nationals. The operators of these small tour counters are mostly people who set up counters in front of their homes. They explained that they hired Russians to sell tours because they found it very difficult to find Thais who can speak Russian,” Col Narong added.
The order for all “Russian counters” to close has been lifted, with the only business ordered to remain closed being a massage parlor on Taina Road in central Karon.
“That owner does not have the correct license for operating such a business, so we ordered the business to close until the owner has been issued the appropriate license,” Col Narong explained.
“I have raised the issue at a meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall that Phuket [authorities] must clarify which occupations foreigners can do and which occupations they cannot. This would make it clear for everyone and easy for officers to take action against transgressors,” he added.
However, Phanompol Thammachatniyom, president of the Phuket Professional Guide Association, remains far from complacent on the issue of Russians being heavily involved in providing local tourism services.
“The Russian [tour] counters are telling tourists not to use tuk-tuks or taxis in Kata and Karon, They are even telling tourists not to use any service provided by Thais,” Mr Phanompol alleged.
“I have been told that up to 90 per cent of Russian tour agents in Kata- Karon do not have the proper work permits to sell packages at the counters. Some tour counters are staffed by foreigners, with not a single work permit issued among them,” he added.
“Also, these tour counter operators are not bringing Russian tourists to the island. They are just picking up tourists off the street. This doesn’t have the same positive effect that Russian tour companies who bring tourists to the island do,” he concluded.
— Chutharat Plerin