Phiphat eager to address outrage

Phiphat eager to address outrage

Tourism minister says reputation of police has been damaged by recent scandals involving provision of special services

Tourists dressed in traditional Thai costumes and locals visit Wat Arun temple in Bangkok.
Tourists dressed in traditional Thai costumes and locals visit Wat Arun temple in Bangkok.

Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn says the controversy involving the Thai police and Thailand Privilege Card (TPC) has damaged the reputation of law enforcement and tourism organisations, with his ministry aiming to clarify the allegations before a cabinet meeting next week.

Jirayu Huangsap, an MP from the Pheu Thai Party, said in parliament that shady Chinese business operators had become members of Thailand Elite Card, the privilege programme under TPC, which is owned by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

The news sparked public outrage in a week when a Taiwanese actress claimed Thai police extorted her and a VIP police escort service for Chinese tourists hit the headlines.

Mr Phiphat said one priority is to notify embassies and consulates about the legal duties of related authorities, clarifying which roles they are capable of performing and which are outside their area of responsibility.

For instance, the Tourist Police must help facilitate tourists via direct orders from the Royal Thai Police or the Tourism Ministry, and cannot charge a price for those services.

"It is the duty of the Tourist Police to provide convenience for both Thais and foreigners. In the past, there were regular requests for motorcades for several tour buses or important guests. These services must be free of charge," he said.

The 7,000-baht fee paid by the Chinese tourist for a VIP escort was illegal, said Mr Phiphat.

He said these events are under investigation by the Tourist Police Bureau.

The ministry plans to respond to each of the claims, including the allegations made by Pheu Thai MP on Tuesday, said Mr Phiphat.

Regarding Thailand Elite Card, he said members' privileges are described in the company's regulations.

Members are eligible for reception at the airport, being escorted to fast-track immigration, baggage claim, and a transfer to their destination via a prepared limousine.

The Elite Card has several member- ship schemes that cost from 600,000 baht to 2 million baht.

Mr Phiphat said TAT and the ministry deny any involvement in the provision of services that are not outlined in the Elite Card's regulations.

The ministry set a tourism revenue target for this year of 2.38 trillion baht, roughly 80% of the tally in 2019, from 25 million foreign tourists and 160 million domestic trips.

Given that China is letting tour groups travel to 20 countries including Thailand, it is possible foreign arrivals might reach 30 million this year, he said.

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