PATONG: Authorities at the Similan National Park are making changes to the ticketing system to stave off allegations of abuse and corruption. Representatives from about 30 dive companies met yesterday evening at Crissey Village with the park’s chief. Alistair Beveridge, President of the Phuket Chapter of the Dive Operator’s Club of Thailand (DOCT), told the gathering that he had been informed that a Thai television station (iTV) was investigating alleged corruption over the collection of Similan/ Surin National Park fees. Vithaya Hongvengchan, Chief of Similan National Park, said there had been “confusion” on the issuance of receipts. Each ticket, he explained, had three sections and the third part was to go with the money to Bangkok to confirm the ticket had been sold. The customer retained the first section and the second section was kept by the park ranger. Mr Beveridge pointed out that some dive companies had also received cash receipts from the national park. To this, K. Vithaya said, “We cannot issue receipts because the ticket itself is the receipt. But some dive employees need to show their bosses that they paid for the tickets. So we gave them cash receipts. “From now on, to avoid confusion, we won’t give cash receipts. If a company needs to make a claim for tax purposes, it can bring its payment voucher and I will sign the voucher instead,” K. Vithaya said. K. Vithaya also said that if any dive center wanted to check how much money the national park had sent to Bangkok, it could ask Bangkok directly without letting him know. Divers also asked what happened to the money collected at Similan Park. The figure given was approximately 17 million baht for last season. K. Vithaya said all money went to Bangkok and at the end of the year 5% was returned to the local Tambon Administration Organization. Of the remainder, 10% was used for maintenance and new equipment. Fifty percent of what was left went back to the national park that collected the fee, while the rest went to other national parks that did not have their own income. He added that tickets that said, “Visit National Park 2000” had not necessarily expired. “We printed tons of tickets and will continue to use them until they are gone,” he said. K. Vithaya said that this year, the national park received 5.9 million baht and bought four dinghies, repaired old boats and added some public water and an electricity system. He said he would like to hear suggestions from dive companies. “I used to send a letter out but we’ve never received any responses,” he said. K. Vithaya can be reached at 076-421365 (Koh 4), 076-422136 (Koh 8), 076-595045 (Tab Lamu) or 01-5376811, or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
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