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Senate seeks action on foreign tour guides in Phuket

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: An adviser to the Senate Standing Committee on Tourism has spoken out against the long-standing problem of foreign tour guides operating in Phuket.

Phanomphon Thammachartniyom, an honorary adviser to the upper house committee, told a meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall that he had been working for 10 years to solve the problem of Russians, Chinese and Koreans working as tour guides, but to little avail.

Work as a tour guide in the Kingdom is restricted to Thai nationals by Ministry of Labor regulations; violators are subject to stiff penalties – if they can be caught.

“We have discussed the matter with Russian, Korean and Chinese tour operators, but it seems they don’t want to employ Thai guides. Even though our guides are highly qualified, the operators still say they are not good enough,” Mr Phanomphon said.

Despite his stated confidence in the quality of Thai tour guides, Mr Phanomphon pointed out that tour guide training courses were insufficient in many regards.

“Though Phuket universities have produced more than 300 guides, many courses are only two or three weeks long. Having undergone only two weeks training, many Thais guides are hired only as ‘sitting guides’, while foreign guides actually conduct the tours,” he said.

“Sitting guides” are quite literally guides who just go along for the ride, having little person-to-person contact with tour guests.

Capt Siramate Thanapansiri of the regional Tourist Police headquarters in Phuket Town said that an investigation by that agency failed to find any foreigners working as guides in Phuket.

This was echoed by an official from the Phuket Revenue Office, who despite receiving numerous complaints on the issue, was unable to identify any illegal foreign tour guides.

However, Mr Phanomphon said it was impossible that officials would be unable to find foreign guides – if they were serious about the search.

“If you spend three days at some of the popular tourist venues, such as Wat Chalong and Laem Phromthep, you would find a hundred of them,” he said.

Responding to a request by Phuket Vice Governor Sommai Prijasilpa, Capt Siramate said he would inspect locations where foreign tour guides were allegedly working and report his findings in 30 days.

Phuket Tourist Association (PTA) Vice President Sarayuth Mallam agreed with the need to better enforce the restriction.

“We don’t think that enforcement will affect tourism. The law is the law; they must follow it. The important thing is that our officers must not accept money [from tour operators for looking the other way]. This problem would end right away if the appropriate action were taken,” said the legal expert.

“We will put in place short- and long-term measures to solve this issue. In the meantime, we need to invite tour companies from Russia, Korea and China to discussions,” said V/Gov Sommai.

Also at the meeting was Phuket Provincial Employment Office worker Puang Songnam, who reported that some 6,800 foreigners were legally employed in Phuket.

British workers formed the largest group, with 1,095, followed by the Filipinos. Russians accounted for 403 and Koreans 284, employed mainly as executives in tourism-related businesses.

— Atchaa Khamlo

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Thailand

Thai Airways to resume flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Phuket

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thai Airways to resume flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Phuket | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai Airways

After nearly 9 months on the ground due to the coronavirus pandemic, along with problems balancing their accounts, Thai Airways will resume flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai as well as Bangkok and Phuket later this month. The flights will start back up on Christmas day.

Flights from Bangkok to the 2 key tourist provinces have been grounded since April 1. Starting December 25, the airline will run 3 flights a week on both routes. A source told the Bangkok Post that the new schedules will run until at least February 28.

Thai Lion Air, Thai Air Asia, Nok Air, Thai Smile, VietJet Air and Bangkok Airways have returned to the domestic skies since July and slowly adding frequency to their routes.

In addition to resuming the domestic flights, the Thai Airways is relaunching some international flights from January 1 to March 27 including weekly flights to Frankfurt, London, Copenhagen, Sydney, Seoul, Manila, Taipei and Osaka. Flights from Bangkok to Tokyo will be available 3 times a week and flights from Bangkok to Hong Kong will be available every day.

Thai Airways has been tackling bankruptcy throughout the lockdown and trying to make up for more than 300 billion baht in losses. Since many flights were suspended due to travel restrictions, Thai Airways has tried to make money by business ventures on the ground, like a pop-up restaurant serving in-flight meals and selling off unwanted equipment from their warehouse. There also disposing of much of their older fleet, including all of their Boring 747-400s.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

97 police officers investigated for fiddling Covid-19 payments

Maya Taylor

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97 police officers investigated for fiddling Covid-19 payments | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.newsbeezer.com

97 police officers, from 41 police stations, are currently being investigated for an alleged scam involving Covid-19 payments meant for officers who worked extra shifts during the crisis. The case was assigned by national police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk in November, when it came to light that some officers may have fraudulently claimed allowances meant for others.

In one incident, an officer responsible for transferring extra payments to police on the southern island of Phuket transferred the money to his own accountant instead. At the time, the transfer was dismissed as a mistake (in his favour), with the officer in question receiving a warning, and payments then made to the qualifying officers.

Wissanu Prasatthong-Osot from the National Internal Affairs Police says the investigation should reach a conclusion within the next 10 days.

“The result of the investigation should be ready in 10 days. Currently, 97 officers in 41 police stations ranging from non-commissioned to generals are under investigation for being involved in the swindle. The bureau aims to provide justice to all policemen involved. After the investigation concludes, the victims will receive their full allowance, while the offending officers will be punished under the law and disciplinary standards.”

Nation Thailand reports that a full list of alleged offenders has been sent to Suwat, with Wissanu promising that none will escape prosecution.

“The National Police chief had also ordered the transfer of offending officers at the commander and sub-commander levels out of their areas as per the investigation procedures.”

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Tourism

Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce to propose Guangzhou-Phuket tourism route

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce to propose Guangzhou-Phuket tourism route | The Thaiger
PHOTO: 77 kaoded

A tourism route from Guangzhou, China to Phuket could help the island province recover from the recession brought on by the pandemic and lack of foreign travel, according to the Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce. The president of the organisation, Narongsak Puttapornmongkol, says they plan to submit a letter proposing the route under a travel bubble scheme to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

The Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce is proposing a travel bubble with around 20 cities in China with no recent coronavirus infections and considered to be at a low risk of spreading the virus. Travellers from Guangzhou recently entered Thailand on the new Special Tourist Visa. It was the second flight of international tourists since travel restrictions were imposed in late-March.

“We believe that the Travel Bubble and the quarantine reduction will resolve the tourism business, which is a huge economic opportunity to recover.”

Once a vaccine is widely available, Narongsak suggests that those who wish to Thailand could also present their vaccination certificate or examination reports from the place of origin. He adds that the mandatory state quarantine period is likely to be reduced.

SOURCE: Pattaya News

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