Legal tour guides furious over police arrests, demand illegal guides be targeted
PHUKET: About 100 angry tour guides protested at Chalong Police Station today after 23 legal members of a local Chinese tour guide association were brought in for questioning this morning.
Three members of the association had been attempting to collect evidence of illegal guides operating in the popular tourist destination when they were taken into police custody.
“We do not have jobs right now, as they have been stolen by illegal guides. So, two other guides and I went to Promthep Cape to gather evidence,” said protest leader Jaifu Sae-lee. “We started questioning the guides and taking pictures for evidence so that we could inform the police.”
However, police received reports that the men were threatening tourist. Officers arrived at about 11:45am, and brought the men to the police station.
“Instead of targeting the illegal guides, they forced us to come to the station with them,” Mr Jaifu said. “Why did the police arrest the legal guides instead of the illegal ones?”
Though only three members of the group were questioning people at Promthep Cape, all 23 members of the association were asked to come to the station, Mr Jaifu explained.
“That is why I was angry and called so many tour guides to gather at the station,” Mr Jaifu said.
Lt Col Sathit Nooricht of the Chalong Police explained that all the men were asked to come to the station in order to protect tourists.
“We were also trying to protect ourselves. The station is a safe, neutral place, so we had them follow our patrol cars there,” Col Sathit said.
All 23 men were released after the questioning was complete, said Col Sathit.
“The Chalong Police promised to arrest illegal guides, but we are not sure about other areas in Phuket,” Mr Jaifu said.
“We are all Thai nationals that have the proper paperwork and ID cards to prove that we are legal guides. We hope that the police will focus more on illegal guides in order to reserve jobs for those of us who are legitimate.”
With the green season in full swing, competition between guides for business has increased, said Col Sathit.
“We have names of possible illegal guides, but we have to collect evidence before we can make any arrests,” explained Col Sathit.
“We promise to help the legal guides. We don’t want to run into another situation where it appears that tourists are being threatened.”
Mr Jaifu cleared the protesters from Chalong Police Station shortly after 3pm.
Mr Jaifu is often at the forefront of tour guide protests, especially when it comes to protesting illegal Chinese tour guides.
In April last year, Mr Jaifu led more than 200 Thai tour guides to Phuket Provincial Hall to file a complaint to the Phuket Governor about Chinese nationals working illegally as local tour guides (story here).
On January 7 of this year, more than 100 Thai guides gathered at the Wichit Police Station in support of three guides who faced charges of attacking Chinese national Ta Leng, who they accused of stealing their jobs (story here).
The following day, about 100 Chinese-speaking Phuket tour guides protested in front of a travel company, alleging that the company was hiring illegal Chinese guides (story here).
— Saran Mitrarat
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