Operators exasperated by police scams
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Operators exasperated by police scams

Rackets damage the country's image, say tourism industry leaders

Visitors take tuk-tuks to explore Bangkok landmarks including the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)
Visitors take tuk-tuks to explore Bangkok landmarks including the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)

Tourism operators have expressed frustration over repeated scandals involving Thai police after they were accused of extorting a Taiwanese actress during her trip to the country.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) urged an investigation into the issue to evaluate its impact on the country.

Taiwanese actress Charlene An talked with media about her experience, claiming she was extorted of 27,000 baht by Thai police on Jan 4. The incident was widely reported by Taiwanese media this week.

The actress told reporters her group was stopped by police at a checkpoint, with officers claiming her visa-on-arrival (VOA) was invalid and demanding a physical visa stamp or else she would face charges.

After two hours of detention, her group was asked to pay 27,000 baht to be released, she told her Instagram followers.

The police subsequently denied the actress’s accusations. They say she was merely warned about having an illegal vapouriser, and that no money was demanded or paid.

Thanet Supornsahasrangsi, president of the Tourism Council of Chon Buri, insisted related organisations and the Royal Thai Police must investigate the issue, punishing anyone involved if they committed a crime. Authorities must work to prevent future extortion targeting tourists, he said.

"As Chinese and Taiwanese tourists return to Thailand, this will affect the country's image," said Mr Thanet.

He said roughly 2,000 Taiwanese tourists per day apply for a visa to Thailand.

Taiwan citizens are eligible for a 30-day VOA in Thailand.

Mr Thanet said scams or tourist extortion, such as taxi drivers who arbitrarily charge high prices without using the meter, are persistent problems in all major tourist destinations.

The Tourism Council of Thailand said it plans to address these concerns with the government and related authorities in an attempt to pressure them for a quick resolution to these issues.

Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said tourist safety in Thailand fared poorly in a global survey, ranking 92nd according to the World Economic Forum's Travel and Tourism Development Index. The index listed Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia at 33rd, 58th and 59th, respectively, for safety and security.

She said exploitation of tourists must be tackled immediately as Thailand is behind other countries in terms of its reputation for safety and security.

TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the agency is coordinating with its Taiwan office to follow up on the issue and estimate the impact on the perception of Thailand. He said together with the illicit VIP police escorts offered on Chinese e-commerce platforms, TAT offices in the mainland are gathering information.

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