Avoid bias in job row
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Avoid bias in job row

Amid reports of Russians in Phuket taking away Thai jobs, it is crucial that Thai authorities handle this issue with discretion and not let their racial prejudice take over.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin visited Phuket to engage with tourism operators and listen to their suggestions. His visit coincided with a surge in international visitors, and he's committed to boosting the island's tourism sector, including an expansion of the airport's capacity.

As the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic wane, Phuket has seen a rise in international tourists, hosting around 2 million visitors in the first eight months of this year. Notably, Russians comprised the largest group, totalling over 480,000 individuals -- almost a fourth of foreign visitors to the island.

This wave of Russian visitors has evoked both excitement and concern. Issues like intensified business competition from hair salons run by Russians catering to Russian clients or even taxi businesses, property acquisitions, and potential criminal activities are among the concerns.

Many Russians have secured long-stay visas, invested in properties, and set up businesses in Phuket to escape the economic turmoil and the possibility of conscription following Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Phuket in July to inaugurate a new consulate, reflecting the surging number of Russian citizens seeking opportunities on the island.

Russian-only businesses have emerged, aided by Russian-language apps and staffed by individuals working without proper authorisation. Local Facebook pages reflect the growing anxiety of some residents concerned about Russians taking Thai jobs.

Thai police refute these allegations, citing only three cases linked to Russian criminals on the island in the past five years, primarily related to business disputes. From January to August, law enforcement took action against 635 foreigners, including 78 Russians, with only six caught working without permits.

Immigration police are working to manage such issues related to foreigners breaking the kingdom's laws, according to Thai police. While Mr Srettha strives to promote Phuket as a premier global tourist destination, addressing local concerns is crucial. Ensuring peace and order on the island through preventive measures is essential.

Equally vital is the imperative to refrain from discriminating against the majority of Russians who are law-abiding visitors actively contributing to the local economy. Discrimination based on nationality is neither just nor productive.

Authorities must navigate this situation carefully, addressing issues like unregistered service vehicles and illegal workers without unfairly singling out any nationality. These problems are not exclusive to one group, so the focus should be on effective law enforcement and regulation.

Russian tourists make significant contributions to Phuket's economy, during a time when the global tourism industry is recuperating from the pandemic. As a result, the cultural and economic ties between Russia and Thailand continue to strengthen. It's vital to remember that a thriving, diverse tourism industry is essential for Phuket's long-term prosperity. Efforts should ensure the Russian influx complements, rather than overshadows, the importance of a balanced, sustainable tourism sector welcoming visitors from around the world.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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