Elite Card in the hot seat over scandal
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Elite Card in the hot seat over scandal

Tourism operators urge closer scrutiny

Tourists visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok on Jan 7. (Photo: Reuters)
Tourists visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok on Jan 7. (Photo: Reuters)

Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn asked the Royal Thai Police to investigate the accusation against members of Thailand Elite Card that have been linked with shady Chinese businesses, while tourism operators suggest connecting application procedures with international police to verify criminal records.

Mr Phiphat said the case badly affected the image of the Tourism Ministry and Thai tourism industry as a whole.

He said that during the application process, Thailand Privilege Card (TPC), the operator of Thailand Elite Card, will send personal data of applications to the Immigration Bureau and the Department of Consular Affairs to screen for criminal records.

The ministry has also imposed additional regulations to pre-screen potential members, including checking the status of members and appointed sales agents every two year to ensure the accuracy of qualifications.

"If any of them are reported acting illegally, the minister will urgently withdraw those memberships," said Mr Phiphat.

As there was a report about Thailand Elite Card being sold overpriced abroad, Mr Phiphat said the ministry and TPC cannot be responsible for this issue as they cannot interfere with foreign businesses.

Mr Phiphat added that in the case of tourists using electronic cigarettes, which are illegal in Thailand, police do not have the authority to directly fine tourists. They can only submit the lawsuit to the court.

The reference was to an allegation made by Taiwanese actress Charlene An, who said police extorted money from her at a Bangkok check stop after finding her with an e-cigarette device. The police at first denied the claim but have since reversed their story.

Thaneth Tantipiriyakij, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, said that in addition to the current application process of Thailand Elite Card, TPC should consider connecting a digital database with international organisations, such as Interpol to verify criminal records.

This additional process might help prevent shady individuals from applying for the Thailand Elite Card.

He said Thailand Elite Card has been popular among foreigners, particularly high spending tourists from Europe, Australia and China, who regularly visit Phuket since reopening last year.

Mr Thaneth said the private sector is concerned about law enforcement in Thailand which should be better.

He said law enforcement personnel, such as police, should strictly punish illegal actions according to the law after seeking the truth without bias or for personal interests.

For instance, many tourists in Phuket drive without a licence. Police should inform them about their violation, lawfully impose a fine and admonish them to avoid repeating the mistake.

"Officers should maintain the same standard for both locals and tourists," said Mr Thaneth.

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