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Plan to legalize foreign guides under fire

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Panomphol Thummachartniyom, President of the Phuket Professional Guide Association (PPGA), has blasted a proposal to legalize foreign tour guides, arguing that there are already enough qualified Thai guides, while slamming the authorities for not cracking down on foreigners working illegally as guides.

“Phuket already has problems with foreigners working as tour guides, especially Koreans and Russians. Thais who have already been trained are being used only as ‘sitting guides’.

“This makes the Thai guides feel discouraged about their work, and many choose to stop working as guides,” he said.

Tour companies that use illegal foreign guides usually also employ “sitting” Thai guides whose job it is to act as window dressing should a tour party encounter the police or other officials.

K. Panomphol’s comments came after Governor Udomsak Uswarangkura floated the idea of legalizing foreign guides at a Provincial Hall meeting on Wednesday, saying that Tourism and Sports Minister Pracha Maleenont had asked him to sound out opinions.

The PPGA President continued, “Foreign guides are still working in Thailand because foreign tour companies still hire them. They work illegally which makes it easy for the companies to control them.

“Everyone – including the police – knows that there are illegal guides working in Phuket, but still there are about 2,000 illegal guides here.”

He added angrily, “Minister Pracha says that we don’t have enough guides, but we have conducted a nationwide survey and there are more than enough guides covering all [the major tourist] languages.”

The 2,000 Thai registered guides working in Phuket were already suffering, he said; about half of them are currently unemployed due to the drop in tourist numbers since the tsunami.

He also reminded the Governor that the PPGA and the Guide Association of Thailand had staged a protest rally against legalizing foreign guides in Bangkok on November 1.

Gov Udomsak replied, “We may have enough guides, but we need to look at whether they are fluent, whether they have been trained to a level that ensures that tourists of all nationalities feel like they are talking to a guide from their home country.”

The Governor did not comment about illegal guides working in Phuket, but Phuket Tourist Police Inspector Maj Bundit Khaosutham told the Gazette, “If police discover illegal tour guides, they are obliged to arrest them.

“However, we have only a few officers to go on patrol inspecting tour groups. The Tourist Police have to deal with many problems involving tourists, such as jet-skis, tuk-tuks and drunk tourists fighting.

“We are now focusing on building tourists’ confidence in visiting Phuket, so we have even less time to inspect tour groups.”

 

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