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Phuket corruption scandal taken to PM Yingluck

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket corruption scandal taken to PM Yingluck | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: Patong business owners – tired of inaction by Phuket authorities in tackling corrupt officials collecting an estimated 50 million baht a month – have filed a complaint directly with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

“I handed the complaint personally to Suranand Vejjajiva, the Secretary General to the Prime Minister of Thailand Yingluck Shinawatra,” Phuket businessman and adviser to the Thailand Trade Organization Chart Chindapol announced today.

Speaking to the press this morning, Mr Chart alleged that formal complaints filed to the “highest-ranking government official on the island” had yielded no response.

“Local government officers are not serious in following this up. The highest-ranking government officer on the island just called on the relevant department heads to discuss and inspect the problem, after that he went back to sleep.

“He is willing to let the problems from the past stay, and instead is focusing only on tackling new problems. The old problems have never been solved,” Mr Chart said.

Mr Chart repeated his claims of August 23, that at least 17 government offices in Phuket are involved in extracting bribes from local businesses to overlook (‘not see’) closing times and to “protect them” (story here).

“At this stage, we have enough evidence to identify the places where police have been collecting money and how they collected it, but I cannot reveal this to the media,” he stated.

However, Mr Chart publicly named one relatively low-ranking officer* from an elite division of the Royal Thai Police as the bagman who collected the illicit payments.

“Among the officers, he collects most of the money from Patong business owners, about 4 to 5 million baht per month,” Mr Chart said.

“He asks for money from all kinds of businesses, including entertainment venues and businesses involved in land encroachment, and he supports foreign mafia operators in Phuket.

“He claims that the money goes to all the highest-ranking police officers in Phuket,” Mr Chart alleged.

Mr Chart also gave the press a breakdown of monthly “standard fees” collected: 3,000 to 5,000 baht from small businesses; 10,000 baht from medium-sized enterprises; and 100,000 baht for big business.

“He takes a cut of the profits made by some of the businesses in addition to the standard fee,” he added.

Mr Chart today also announced that he will set up his own “complaint center” that will bypass officials in Phuket and be brought directly to the appropriate officers in Bangkok.

“To help people who have similar problems, I will open an office to receive complaints and help them without going through local government offices,” he explained.

“The center will be called the ‘Complaints Center for the People – Andaman Region’, which I hope to open as soon as possible,” he said.

Patong Entertainment Business Association (PEBA) president Weerawit Kureasombut, also present at the the press conference today, warned that further inaction by the government will result in Patong business owners having to shut down their venues.

“The entertainment business owners are in trouble. We cannot afford to keep making such payments, so we filed a complaint in February to the Phuket Governor, but so far nothing has happened.

“So we filed a written complaint [to the Governor] again and handed a copy directly to the Prime Minister’s Office. We also sent copies to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, Ministry of Interior, Royal Thai Police and relevant departments,” he added.

“The complaint was received by the Prime Minister’s Office on October 7. We will give the government 15 days [until October 31] to take action. If nothing happens, we will do something to let them know that we are in distress,” he warned.

Mr Weerawit urged lawmakers to consider allowing entertainment businesses to trade longer hours in order to stamp out the rampant corruption.

“In the complaint, we explained that we want to extend the closing time for our venues to 4am. The Public Entertainment Place Act BE 2509 currently allows entertainment venues to be open until 1am only – and this is costing us a lot of potential income because our customers do not start coming to the venues until about 11pm.

“If we are allowed to be open longer, we could generate more money, which would mean a lot more tax revenues would be collected by the government,” he explained.

“It would be better if the government made late trading legal so that money currently being paid under the table would go directly to the government for public development,” Mr Weerawit said.

* The Phuket Gazette is withholding the alleged bagman’s name until that person has been verified as implicated in the collection of bribes on behalf of public officials.

— Saran Mitrarat

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

Phuket

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket

Maya Taylor

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4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | The Thaiger
Mai Khao beach in north Phuket. PHOTO: Booking.com

Phuket officials are setting aside around 4 billion baht to transform medical tourism in the southern province of Phuket, by developing a state-of-the-art treatment hub in the north of the island. The Bangkok Post reports that the Treasury department is planning to give the Public Health Ministry permission to use 141 rai of government land in the sub-district of Mai Khao, close to Phuket International Airport. It’s not the first time the proposal has come to light.

The concept is gathering support as Phuket battles to diversify its attraction beyond a tropical holiday island.

The aim is to develop Phuket as a world-class health and wellness destination, with facilities that will attract medical tourists from all over the world, as well as providing a high standard of treatment to the local population. It’s understood the facility will provide a full range of health services, including long-term care, and hospice and rehabilitation services.

The island already has a well-developed medical tourism market, but has been based around local hospitals and clinics linking up with foreign marketing companies in the past. “The International Medical and Public Health Service” has been conceived to create more long term financial security and diversification, and value-added tourism in Phuket, as the island has taken a heavy financial hit over the past 7 months.

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Phuket Andaman News

The plan was first suggested in 2017, by then governor, Noraphat Plodthong and confirmed by the director of Phuket’s Vachira Hospital, Dr. Chalermpong Sukontapol, in July. At that stage, the estimated budget was 3-4 billion baht. The director-general of the Treasury department, Yuthana Yimkarun, says the plot is being offered to the Health Ministry for free. The land is thought be worth around 1 billion baht.

Yuthana says the ministry will manage investment, with approximately 2 billion baht required for the first stage of the project. Construction of the facility is expected to be completed over 2 years.

Meanwhile, it’s understood that unused government land that is currently managed by various government agencies may be moved under the remit of central government, with a view to increasing its worth. According to the Bangkok Post report, just 4% of government land is directly managed by the Treasury. The other 96% is controlled by various government agencies. Yuthana says the plan is to increase the percentage of state-owned land under the Treasury’s management to 10% within 2 years.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

“Open the borders, safely”, Bill Heinecke, Minor International interview – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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“Open the borders, safely”, Bill Heinecke, Minor International interview – VIDEO | The Thaiger

Bill Heinecke speaks to Bill Barnett. The two heavy-hitters of Thailand’s hotel and hospitality sector, mull over the current Covid situation and the reopening of Thailand’s borders to some form of tourism. Bill Heinecke is the Chairman and Founder of Minor International.

Bill Barnett is the Managing Director of c9hotelworks.com

Now the Thai government has approved the special long-term tourist visa scheme (STV), hoteliers are remaining skeptical about reopening due to the lack of clarity in the recent announcement, which will reportedly take effect next month. The president of the Thai Hotels Association’s southern chapter says more hoteliers will consider reopening if the government gives further information about the plan in terms of prospective markets, arrival dates, origin countries, and flights.

Such details would allow hotels to prepare themselves ahead of time to offer services as alternative state quarantine premises as at least 60 hotels in Phuket are awaiting approval to operate such facilities.

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Bangkok

Now they’re coming… Special Tourist Visa flight set for Tuesday – Tourism and Sports Minister

Caitlin Ashworth

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Now they’re coming… Special Tourist Visa flight set for Tuesday – Tourism and Sports Minister | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Suhyeon Choi

After much confusion and a few apparent ‘misunderstandings’, Chinese tourists on the Special Tourist Visa will actually arrive on October 20 and 26. At least that’s what Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn says, according to the Bangkok Post. The first group is said to arrive 4 days from now in Bangkok (if they actually applied for the visa this time).

Reports circulated for weeks about a flight of 120 to 150 tourists set to arrive in Phuket on October 8 from Guangzhou, China. An announcement was made shortly after the flight was due to arrive with Tourism Authority Governor Yuthasak Supasorn saying “administrative issues” had caused the delay.

It was later reported that no one from Guangzhou had actually applied for the visa and it was all just a misunderstanding after the Tourism Authority of Thailand reportedly passed off a list of those “interested” in the visa as actual applications.

This time, the Post is reporting the first group of 120 tourists from Guangzhou will arrive at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on Tuesday. Another group of 120 tourists, also from Guangzhou, will arrive on October 26, but the Post didn’t say where that flight will land.

It’s apparently the same group that was planned to arrive in Phuket on October 8, but the minister claims the trip was postponed due to the Vegetarian Festival which is planned to run until October 25. Both the Phuket governor and National Security Council secretary general had claimed the festival was the reason for the delayed flight and was intended to ease fears of Covid-19 for the festival-goers coming in from the rest of Thailand.

Even though the new long stay tourist visa is good for 90 days, and can be renewed twice, the tourists will only stay in the country for 30 days, with 14 of those days in quarantine. Phiphat says the Tourism Authority of Thailand will find activities to keep the tourists occupied while in quarantine.

The visitors will be the first international tourists after a 6 month ban to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Thai officials have been discussing plans for months about how to safely reopen borders to revive the country’s economy which is heavily driven by the tourism industry. Officals are now talking about cutting down the mandatory time for quarantine from 14 days to 7 days to help entice people to visit.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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