PHUKET: Officials have shut down a dive tour company serving Chinese tourists at Koh Racha, located about 25km south of Phuket, after confirming that Myanmar nationals were working illegally there as dive instructors.
Santi Pawai, director of the Minister of Tourism and Sports Phuket office, announced the forced closure of dive company Hou Hai Diver Co Ltd during his inspection of Racha Island yesterday.
The company promoted itself on the internet through a Chinese-language website that featured photos of tourists in Santa hats underwater, one pictured beside a cloth over coral and others holding starfish and a turtle.
“We were told that five Myanmar nationals were working as instructors and leading Chinese tourists on dive tours,” he explained.
“We found only three instructors, who were all arrested and handed over to the Chalong Police to be charged and deported for working illegally.”
The Myanmar nationals had been issued work permits as construction laborers, he added.
“The company was also operating illegally,” Mr Santi said. “It is not registered with the Tourist Business and Guide Registration office, or even with PADI, of which is claimed to be a member.”
“We have not yet been able to identify the owner, but we believe the company owner operates the business from China, selling tour packages there. I have asked the Chalong Police and Marine Police to investigate this further.”
Mr Santi urged anyone with information about companies illegally operating in the tourism industry to inform his office immediately.
“It is very dangerous. I am glad there were no sad accidents involving this operation, as accidents can happen even with experts running dive tours,” he said.
“Anyone with information about illegal tourism operations, and especially with any information about the two missing Myanmar workers from this case, please call us at at 076-327100. My staff are available 24 hours.”
— Chutharat Plerin