Phuket pirates plea for sympathy, assert right to sell illegal goods

PHUKET: A group of pirates from Kata and Karon staged a protest in Phuket Town on Wednesday to fight rising opposition to the sale of illegal wares.

The protest leaders first arrived at Phuket Police Station, where their letter of complaint was received on behalf of Phuket Police Commander Pekad Tantipong.

The crowd of about 60 vendors then moved on to Provincial Hall, where Vice Governor Weerawat Janpen received a letter on behalf of Governor Tri Augkaradacha.

“We are asking for justice as the police have been raiding our stores and seizing our illegal goods every day now for more than a month. We are in financial trouble and some of us need to borrow money,” said one protest leader, who asked not to be named.

“Why do the police raid only the shops in Kata and Karon but not those in other areas, such as Patong and Kamala? We feel we are being targeted,” he said.

“We have been running our [illegal] shops for 20 years now,” he added.

However, the protesters explained that before the raids began, warning letters were handed to each operator.

The warning letters said that the Royal Thai Police and the Intellectual Property Department have a joint-policy to suppress the sale of pirated products, which they said was damaging the country’s economy and reputation, he explained.

The letters were marked as issued by Phuket Police Commander Pekad, he added.

“They want us to sell only local products and OTOP [One Tambon/One Product] items which other shops are already selling. The police said that it is possible to earn a living by doing that.

“But we have already invested in our businesses so action like this is causing big problems for us – now most of our shops are closed. That’s about 1,000 shops in Kata-Karon going out of business,” he said.

One shop selling pirated goods makes about 5,000 baht a day, he explained, adding that this means 1,000 shops are making about five million baht for Kata and Karon.

“But the warning letters said we are destroying the country’s economy,” he argued.

The protest leader also complained about the cost of constantly posting bail for those arrested, including migrant workers illegally selling goods in the shops by not performing the type of work prescribed in their work permits.

“We have to pay 20,000 to 30,000 baht to post bail for each person arrested, while our products – which we bought from Pratunam, Sampeng and Pahurat in Bangkok – are being seized every day,” he said.

“We want to know why the police are being so unfair, and whether there is something else behind this. We would like the Phuket Commander to leave Phuket,” said one of the protest leaders.

The police said they would pass the protesters’ letter on to Maj Gen Pekad, who was not in Phuket on the day.

V/Gov Weerawat said a committee would be tasked with finding a practical solution to the problem.

“Actually, this problem started with Karon Subdistrict Chief [Kamnan] Winai Chitchiew collecting money from us and then not being fair to shop operators, so we stopped paying him,” said one shop operator.

“Then he [Winai] complained to every related organization and instigated the raids on our shops. This might be why the commander [Maj Gen Pekad] is doing this.

“The commander could choose to compromise instead of just using the law to force people to change. If he wants to enforce the law, he has to do so across the whole island – not just in select locations,” he said.

— Atchaa Khamlo

Phuket News
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